All we want for Christmas is an HDOA report

Recently, The Garden Island news reported on the latest briefing by the Kauai Pesticide Joint Fact Finding Group. The JFFG was established to look into the issues of pesticide use on Kauai. The briefing was for members of the Hawaii Legislature’s House Joint Committee on Health and Agriculture.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho’ administration was represented by George Costa, director of the Office of Economic Development. Due to the passing of Bill 2491/Ordinance 960, George’s office was responsible for overseeing several notable aspects of pesticide use on Kauai. One of them was to work with the State Department of Agriculture and sample pollen from local honeybee hives.

Partnering with the Kauai Beekeepers Association and funded by the County of Kauai, HDOA sampled 20-plus colonies in 2015 and a final report was to be delivered to the county by the end of that year. Local beekeepers requested anonymity as participants of the study and HDOA Apiarist Danielle Downey and her team worked out sampling details with participating beekeepers and George Costa’s OED.

Several glitches in the process manifested early in the study. Ms Downey left HDOA and her interim replacement, Lauren Rusert, carried out the duties of the study by collecting samples and sending them to North Carolina for testing and analysis in a USDA laboratory. Notifications of results to participating beekeepers were halted and the results of the report were not released as anticipated. Ms Rusert directed all inquiries about the survey to HDOA Chair Enright.

After much prodding and repeated requests to HDOA for an executive summary of the survey, the Kauai Beekeepers Association contacted Mr. Costa at OED and County Council Chair Mel Rapozo to request that HDOA provide an update as expected. In the meantime, individual beekeepers were notified of their results but no public record of the overall survey was shared with stakeholders and the community at large.

Finally after several months of emails, phone calls and face to face meetings, Council Chair Rapozo placed it on the council’s March 15, 2017 agenda and HDOA Chair Scott Enright provided a verbal briefing of the study. Chair Enright provided a similar briefing to Mayor Carvalho’s administration earlier that day and later that evening to members present at the monthly meeting of the Kauai Beekeepers Association.

In his briefing, Chair Enright shared that all 23 samples had residues of a common household pesticide (Friponil) and that many had multiple compounds in them. Of concern to many, the restricted use pesticide Chlorpyrifos was found in one sample from the Westside of Kauai.

Due to the lack of information and personnel changes in the HDOA Apiary Section (both Rusert and Downey have left HDOA,) questions remain about the results. Chair Enright shared that future studies were needed to see if the results were consistent and if further action would be necessary. So far, HDOA has not followed through on several promises that were made at these briefings.

The briefing that recently took place on Dec. 11, 2017, according to the article by Jessica Else, seemed to focus on the voluntary Good Neighbor Program and the need for additional testing of ground and surface waters.

Unfortunately, there was no mention of the HDOA study’s findings about the prevalence of pesticides found in pollen. Also absent from the briefing were the findings of another study conducted by Dr. Carl Berg and Kapaa High School science student, Ritikaa Kumar.

Their study of local honey found traces of the herbicide Roundup in over a quarter of samples. Both principle investigators, Dr. Berg and Ms. Downey were interviewed by the JFFG regarding their findings.

While the overall conditions of honeybee colonies on Kauai remain strong, the fact that all of hives tested had residuals of pesticides is of great concern to many beekeepers. The use of pesticides for both domestic and commercial purposes is without a doubt widespread and not without risk to human and environmental health.

Whether the application is for food production, landscaping or property management is not as significant for beekeepers as much as the ubiquitous use of them and the potential harm to humans, honeybees and other pollinators that comes from exposure.

As Chair Enright stated in his briefings on March 15, 2017 briefing, ” … the best studies are longitudinal. This was only a snapshot.”

Further study is needed to determine the range and impacts of these commercial and domestic products that we use around our homes, schools, parks and farms. Our food systems and property management schemes all need to be evaluated to ensure that the “life of the land will be perpetuated in righteousness.”

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James G. Trujillo is chair of the Kauai Beekeepers Association.

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