LIHUE — Environmental Protection Agency and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture are working together to better regulate pesticide applications in West Kauai and on Molokai.
It’s a result of a 2016 Earthjustice complaint against HDOA for not doing everything in its power to limit pesticide exposure in Hawaii communities — particularly within Native Hawaiian communities.
Makaweli Valley kalo farmer John A’ana is part of “Po’ai Wai Ola,” one of the two groups — the other was “Moms On A Mission” — that were represented by Earthjustice in the complaint.
A’ana said Tuesday the watershed group hopes the agreement spurs HDOA to “stop poisoning the land and waters we rely upon to feed our families”.
“At the very least, HDOA can no longer ignore its responsibility to ensure that Native Hawaiians aren’t bearing the brunt of the harmful effects of industrial pesticide use on our islands,” A’ana said.
Tuesday, Earthjustice announced an informal resolution agreement between the two agencies, one that forces HDOA to start implementing restricted-use pesticide reporting, annual public disclosure of the reports, maps that indicate buffer zones around schools and public notice of the prohibition of chlorpyrifos use.
“Although HDOA has broad powers to limit communities’ pesticide exposure — through enacting regulations, restricting pesticide registrations, and enforcing pesticide use laws — it has made very little effort to do so,” according to an Earthjustice press release.
“Instead, it routinely registers pesticides for local use without considering their impacts on Native Hawaiians, is lax in monitoring and enforcing against harmful practices, and has failed to enact or support protections such as buffer zones and pesticide disclosure,” the release states.
HDOA made its own announcement as well on Tuesday, stating the agency is pleased about their agreement with EPA, and that HDOA agreed “to continue to comply with existing federal and state laws, including an agreement to ensure that proper notices are posted and accessible describing people’s right to be free from discrimination and HDOA’s process for handling discrimination complaints.”
“We appreciate EPA’s cooperation and professionalism in working with us to find an amicable and fair resolution,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.
Since the complaint was filed, the Hawaii Legislature passed Act 45, which bans pesticides that contain chlorpyrifos and requires buffer zones around schools for pesticide applications.
Tuesday’s agreement directs HDOA on how to fulfill those obligations — annual reporting of restricted use pesticides; permits for application of the pesticide, chlorpyrifos; and 100-foot buffer zones. Act 45 also required HDOA to post aggregated data on restricted use pesticides.
“The department remains committed to the enforcement of these laws, and the enhancement of its nondiscrimination programs,” HDOA said in a Tuesday statement.
Earthjustice attorney Kylie Wager Cruz represented Po’ai Wai Ola and Moms On A Mission and said the EPA response is a good start.
“We hope HDOA will make good on its commitments under the agreement and take further steps well within its current powers, such as placing buffer zones around medical facilities and residential and commercial areas where pesticide applications can expose innocent people to toxic substances,” Cruz said.
Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org