Decision on pesticide study delayed

LIHUE — A Kauai County Council subcommittee will consider amendments to a measure that would fund a group charged with creating a study of pesticide use on the island.

The unanimous council decision to refer the proposed resolution Wednesday to the Committee of the Whole came after most of the six  council members expressed disapproval of the measure in its current form.

“We don’t want a subjective group,” Council Chair Jay Furfaro said. “We want the most objective work group we can find so that we can also help heal this community.”

The proposed measure on Wednesday called for the county to fund a consultant tasked with convening and facilitating a 12 to 15-member Pesticide and Genetic Engineering Joint Fact Finding Group comprised of “knowledgeable scientific experts, medical experts, environmental experts and community stakeholders.”

This group, according to county documents, would be responsible for designing and overseeing an Environmental and Public Health Impacts Study that addresses “the pesticides used and genetically modified organisms grown by large-scale commercial agricultural entities on Kauai.”   

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said she would rather have a group of community stakeholders from a wide range of interests determine the study’s scope and the questions needing answers and then have third-party consultants execute the study.

“When there is poor definition of scope of work, I have seen a total waste of money and consultants who go far into questions that the community doesn’t even want answered,” Yukimura said.

The challenge, she said, is to focus on the main concern expressed by both sides: the health and well-being of those in the community.

“In this fact-finding group, process is very important and one of the important parts of consensus is that everybody agrees,” Yukimura said. “Now, people will think that is impossible, but health is the key issue. I believe everyone has a stake in health.”

But other council members say they are not so sure.

“I think the community right now is running on a high octane level of emotions,” Council Member Mel Rapozo said. “You’re not going to get a good scope from there — there’s going to be half of the community who want this and another half who wants something else.”

Councilman Gary Hooser said the fact-finding group should exclude those who have a direct financial interest in being on the committee, such as company officials or employees.

That group, he said, should also wait until action is taken and Bill 2491, which the council is considering adopting into law, has taken effect so they have access to pesticide disclosure data.  

Rapozo said he was also concerned by some of the language in the bill, which seems to lean more toward those in favor of passing Bill 2491.

“This is a slanted resolution and that’s not our job,” Rapozo said. “If we want to get to the bottom of this, let’s do it fairly and accurately and hire the experts who can do it for us.”

Council Member Tim Bynum said he wants to hold off on voting on the resolution until the council is able to meet with Office of the County Attorney staff to clear up legal questions.

The move to refer the bill came on the heels on Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr.’s veto of Bill 2491 last week, when he also asked the council to move forward with the measure as soon as possible.

“The mayor was pleased to see that the EPHIS appears to be moving forward,” County spokeswoman Beth Tokioka wrote in an email Wednesday. “He is fully behind doing the study and stands ready to move forward once it’s been approved and funded.”

Furfaro, who serves as the chair of Committee of the Whole, said proposed amendments to the resolution must be submitted to his office by Dec. 4 and will be considered by the committee on Dec. 11.

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