HONOLULU — The state of the Good Neighbor Program, pesticide prevalence in ground and surface waters, and research into the connection between pesticides and birth defects were all on the table Monday.
The purpose of the briefing to the House Committee on Health and Human Services and the House Committee on Agriculture was for legislators to find out how to help move forward the fulfillment of the 2016 Kauai Pesticide Joint Fact Finding Study Group’s recommendations.
“We are a month and a week from opening day (in the Legislature) and it’s important for us to get to this issue before we start,” said Rep. John Mizuno, D-28.
He continued: “Pesticides will continue to be a robust issue going into the 2018 legislative session.”
County of Kauai Director of the Office of Economic Development, George Costa, represented Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. at the briefing, and gave updates on the two items under county’s purview.
The first was Carvalho’s responsibility to appoint a representative to the Department of Agriculture pesticide advisory committee.
He said the mayor stands ready to submit that appointee to work with Scott Enright, chair of the state Board of Agriculture and state Department of Agriculture.
Secondly, the county was charged with a review of the use of pesticides in county places and with increasing the amount of public notification around their use.
The county’s parks and recreation department has an integrated vegetation control program that it feels is sufficient, Costa said.
The department uses nine herbicides and one pesticide in the Wailua Golf Course area and throughout the Kauai parks, they utilize six herbicides and three fertilizers.
“As far as public notification, they post signage in the areas to be treated and sprayed at least 24-hours in advance,” Costa said.
County of Kauai’s divisions of public works, roads and wastewater also use pesticides and herbicides and spray only in favorable weather conditions.
“They don’t spray during rainy or windy conditions,” Costa said.
Roads division uses two herbicides.
Kauai’s Wastewater Division reported using restricted-use-pesticides at the Wailua Wastewater Treatment Plant and non-RUP chemicals at others. Two of the chemicals are herbicides and one is an insecticide.
“The Wastewater Division doesn’t post public notification as it is a 24/7, ongoing operation and this facility is closed and restricted,” Costa said.
The Department of Water’s recommendation was to do testing for chlorpyrifos, and chief engineer Kirk Saiki said the department was able to have a lab re-evaluate results from the past seven years of testing to get those results.
“Basically, there was no detection of dursban (chlorpyrifos) in the groundwater,” Saiki said.
The department is awaiting results from other water tests to research further, and the United States Geological Survey plans to have results from those tests sometime in early January.
USGS is testing surface waters and runoff to distill the accumulation of pesticides and is collecting samples from both high flow and low flow conditions.
“If they find during low flows they are picking up pesticides than there is a potential that we have things we have to look at,” Saiki said.
The Good Neighbor Program was of concern to Kauai’s Rep. Dee Morikawa, D-16, who questioned the agencies about the ease of reporting and the possibility of mandating the program.
“When you go to the site, there’s not an easy way to find out how you can be notified,” Morikawa said. “Couldn’t it be somewhere on the site, to give information on who to contact?”
Currently each of the five biotech companies involved in the Good Neighbor Program have their own methods for connecting with citizens and distributing notifications.
Kem Lowry, of the Kauai Agricultural Good Neighbor Program, said better and more streamline communication with the community is being addressed.
Rep. Nadine Nakamura, D-14, questioned whether the Good Neighbor Program should be mandatory and wanted to ensure equal representation from neighbor islands on the pesticide advisory committee.
“Do you feel that the voluntary Good Neighbor Program is working,” she asked Enright at the briefing. “Is there a need for the program to be come mandatory?”
Enright said he didn’t see a need for a mandatory component to the program.
“I think it’s successful,” he said.
With a need to ensure public health safety, Morikawa said she’d like to see a proactive plan from everyone involved in the briefing.
“Let’s have a plan so we can assure people we’re not being reactive, we’re trying to get ahead of it and have the tools in place to assure the public that we’re on it,” Morikawa said.
Rep. Richard Creagan (D-4) pointed out the day’s discussion revolved around acute exposure, acute toxicity, and environmental monitoring — leaving out long-term and chronic exposures.
“I think the efforts are being made and the JFF committee has really shown the acute exposure and toxicity is being monitored. That should continue,” he said.
Creagan continued: “That doesn’t address long-term exposure. I think we need to expand our focus and look at things that aren’t being addressed.”
The Kauai Pesticide JFF report was initiated as a result of allegations brought by Kauai’s Ordinance 960. The ordinance was created in 2013 after a veto from Carvalho and an override from the county council in a 5-2 vote.
Former Kauai council man Gary Hooser was part of creating that ordinance and watched Monday’s House Committee briefings via the internet.
“The main message transmitted at today’s meeting is that the majority of the JFF official recommendations have yet to be implemented,” Hooser said.
He pointed to the State Birth Defect Registry which “since 2005, still has not been fully updated.”
Hooser continued: “It is disheartening that the state is essentially negligent in enforcing its own rules and recommendations.”
But, state officials know more about pesticide use and effects than they did a couple of years ago, Creagan said, and the accumulation of information shall continue.
“We want to do a lot of things in agriculture and when we speak about herbicides and pesticides, there’s a benefit but there’s also a risk,” Creagan said. “We need to continue to analyze the benefits and risks. We need to grow our own food and we need to do it in a responsible way.”