Civil rights complaint filed against the state

KEKAHA — A Civil Rights violation complaint has been filed against Hawaii Department of Agriculture and Agribusiness Development Corporation on Wednesday for leasing land near Native Hawaiian communities to heavy pesticide users.

Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization, is representing the two community groups Mom on a Mission (MOM) Hui and Po’ai Wai Ola/West Kauai Watershed Alliance in the complaint, filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Environmental lawyers are asking federal agencies to investigate pesticide dust drifting into Native Hawaiian communities in West Kauai and Molokai.

They say the Agribusiness Development Corporation allows pesticides and pesticide-laden dust into Native Hawaiian communities by leasing thousands of nearby acres to heavy pesticide users that are primarily genetically engineered seed companies.

They allege the state agencies aren’t making an effort to protect the communities.

“I live in a community that is home to the largest population of pure blooded Native Hawaiian, native speakers in Hawaii, what many would consider an endangered race and a wealth of cultural knowledge,” said Malia Chun, member of MOM Hui and a Kekaha resident. “We also happen to be a community that is inundated daily by exposure to industrial use pesticides.”

Agriculture department officials didn’t immediately comment on the complaint.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff says toxic chemicals drifting into affluent neighborhoods wouldn’t be tolerated.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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