Weather woes lead to coffee bean harvest noise

KALAHEO — A weather related anomaly that altered night harvesting operations for Kauai Coffee Company meant that neighboring communities heard a little more noise than usual.

David Thorp contacted The Garden Island to complain about late evening noise by Kauai Coffee Company workers in the fields adjacent to his Kalaheo neighborhood.

It was almost 11 p.m. and he said he could still hear the “rumbling” of the Kauai Coffee Company harvesting machines clearly from his Waha Road home. He thought it inconsiderate that the company would not exercise a curfew on night noise.

“I guess it’s harvest time,” Thorp said in an email. “This is very un-neighborly and inconsiderate on the part of Kauai Coffee Company.”

Wayne Katayama, president, Kauai Coffee, said the company harvests 24 hours a day on the 3,000 acre estate on former sugar plantation land. Night operations try to be out of ear shot from bordering communities of Eleele, Kalaheo, and Brideswood typically by 9 p.m.

The harvesting schedule must accommodate noise and dust issues so as not to disturb peace and privacy, he said. The policy is not to start rows toward the residential areas that can’t be finished by nightfall.

“We definitely try to give them peace and quiet at night,” Katayama said.

The orchard runs five miles east to west and three miles north to south, which allows night operations to continue away from residential areas, he said. There is more noise than usually now with the heavier harvesting period from Labor Day through January.

However, were it not for the heavy rains on Nov. 20 the company would not have altered its schedule the night before, Katayama said. It was a break in the routine to harvest beans up to 12:30 a.m. or risk losing them.

The field in question is a steep grade just below the Kalaheo area that could not be harvested with wet ground. The heavy rains would have meant leaving the trees un-harvested indefinitely until it was dry enough for the harvesting equipment.

“We try to manage all of that but sometimes like last week the environment just doesn’t line up nicely for us,” Katayama said. “We try to be good neighbors but we would have lost the crop.”

Greg Williams, orchard operations specialist for Kauai Coffee, said one harvester’s diesel engine isn’t that loud, but when there are several of them working the noise can pick up.

The prevailing winds usually help with carrying the sound away from the residents, Katayama said. It was unusually calm and quiet on Nov. 19, and this contributed to the noise issue, he said.

If residents have questions or concerns about noise or smells, Katayama said they should call the factory laboratory any time of day or night, 335-2725.

Kauai Coffee Company noise limits during operation are covered under State Department of Health administrative rules under Class C, and the Hawaii Right to Farm Act.

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