After the recent ruling in favor of the chemical companies’ position that Ordinance 960 is pre-empted by state law, critics are talking a lot about how much money this lawsuit has cost the county.
Those whose highest priority are fiscal concerns must be thrilled and grateful that Councilmember Bynum uncovered the ag dedication violations by Grove Farm, Pioneer Hi-Bred and Dow AgroSciences that have cost the county tax revenue over $1.096 million in four years. And wouldn’t concerns over the county budget and spending be a reason to support proposed legislation that would tax the wealthiest chemical companies in the world appropriately?
When the County of Kauai has spent far more defending an incredibly high number of personnel complaints and civil rights lawsuits, how can you ask if it was “worth it” to fight for a law whose purpose is to protect the health and safety of Kauai’s residents?
Let’s remember the facts:
Residents surrounded by research fields doused with 17 tons of “Restricted Use” pesticides per year are concerned for the health and safety of their families.
Numerous health care providers have provided testimony and sent letters to the editor. I have never read a letter to the editor from a health care provider that says the high levels of pesticide exposure is safe and of no concern to residents. In fact, even the proponents of the agrochemical companies rarely, if ever, use the word “safe” when they speak of their pesticides. It would be a liability to say that this level and close proximity of pesticide exposure to our school children, our hospital and neighborhoods is safe.
Thousands marched on our little island to say “Something must be done.” I was there, I saw teachers groups, canoe clubs, farmers, and families of every color and creed from all parts of Kauai marching together.
So, was it worth it? How can you ask if going to court to protect the health and safety of Kauai’s people was worth $175,000? How do you put a price tag on that?
Let’s ask the people on the Westside (who smell the noxious pesticide odors regularly) and are affected by the pesticide exposure almost everyday if the money is worth it. Let’s ask the mother whose child is going on his sixth heart surgery and will forever be on blood thinners and will not ever be able to be involved in vigorous play as most boys are (the birth defect he is plagued with has been calculated by local doctors at 10 times the national average). Let’s ask the mother whose son is waking up three to four times a week with a bloody pillow due to bloody noses. This same mother wants to know if any of the pesticides makes it hard for her son to learn. He seems to be struggling with his school work, trying harder than he has in the past and feeling frustrated and disappointed in himself that he is not progressing academically as well. Let’s ask the parents of the six children on the island who were born with their intestines outside of their body and are still going through multiple surgeries. Let’s ask the man who has no risk factors for cancer, eats out of his organic garden, is in top shape, does not smoke, but was just diagnosed with cancer that has already spread.
My guess is that these families would say it’s worth it; to save children and families from this heartache that they have had to endure. Please let’s not forget these people who are too exhausted and overwhelmed with the care of their disabled child or their family member who is dying prematurely to sit and write a letter to the editor.
As a health care provider and a mother of seven and grandmother of two, a million dollars could not take away the pain that these tragically affected families are experiencing day in and day out. Let’s not humiliate them by asking the question “Is $175,000 dollars worth the protection of our health and environment?”
And a final point: If a government is not willing to pass laws that companies might sue over, then companies could set public policy by threatening to sue. And to me that’s unacceptable.
Marghee Maupin is a primary care provider on west Kauai and lives in Kalaheo. She raised her seven children on Kauai and is grandmother of two.