Do something about Westside water pollution

Every single day of the week, the Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) dumps millions of gallons of water polluted with pesticides and heavy metals into the ocean in areas where Kauai’s Westide residents fish, surf and recreate with their families.

This is not wild speculation, exaggeration or hysterical hyperbole.

United States District Court Judge Derrick K Watson on July 9th, 2019 ruled that the ADC is polluting the waters off of west Kauai and doing so without a permit required by the federal Clean Water Act.

Please read the court decision yourself:

Read the court decision and then send out your mahalo to community groups Na Kia‘i Kai, Surfrider Foundation, and Pesticide Action Network — and most especially the law firm Earthjustice who represented them.

Yes, the unfortunate reality is that it took private action by local residents and private nonprofits to press the issue in federal court and finally begin to hold this state agency accountable.

The ADC is a public agency who manages public agricultural lands. They are knowingly and consciously polluting public waters daily without a permit.

It gets worse. Please read the court decision yourself, it will blow you away.

The court findings are eyeopening and include statements such as:

There is no question (emphasis added) that ADC discharges polluted water into the near-shore waters of the Pacific Ocean off Kauai’s western coast on a daily basis via the Mana Plain drainage ditch system, and that it does so without an NPDES permit…It is undisputed that the water discharged contains various pesticides and agricultural chemicals, byproducts of agricultural chemicals, and heavy metals (emphasis added), as well as sediment from the unlined canals through which it passes.”

“… chemicals that seep into the drainage ditch system, including amniomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), a degradate of glyphosate; dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), a degradate of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT); glyphosate, ametryn, atrazine, bentazon, chlorpyrifos, cispropiconazole, diuron, fipronil, hexazinone, MCPA, metolachlor, prometryn, propoxur, simazine, and trans-propiconazole …”

The ADC and the agrochemical industry based on Kauai’s Westside will of course be quick to assure the public that the above listed toxic soup of “various pesticides and agricultural chemicals, byproducts of agricultural chemicals, and heavy metals …” are all there in only small amounts and it’s perfectly safe to swim in them. A “little bit” is OK they will tell you.

But they won’t tell you that for some of these chemicals there is no acceptable level of exposure for a fetus. They will also not tell you that chronic exposure to “a little bit” every day over decades result in negative health impacts that have yet to be fully understood. Scientists and medical professionals alike though will agree that long term exposure to even small amounts of these chemicals are not good for your health, nor for the health of our reefs and near shore fisheries.

If you live on Kauai’s Westside, I encourage you to make an informed decision: Take a second to google these chemicals, read their labels and decide for yourself if you want to continue taking your family to the beach or eat the fish caught from the nearshore waters.

The ADC manages tens of thousands of acres of state-owned agricultural lands located primarily on Kauai and on Oahu. Their largest tenants are the agrochemical corporations (Dupont, Dow, Syngenta/Hartung, etc) doing genetic research and growing thousands of acres of GMO seed corn on Kauai’s Westside. These same tenants apply tons of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUP’s) on a regular basis to crops grown on the adjacent fields.

The ADC is the enabler of the pollution but not the originator. The contaminants themselves are generated by the ADC’s industrial tenants and then make their way into the ditches managed by the ADC, and then into the near shore waters.

The application of RUP’s are controlled by federal law, which strictly prohibits them from being used in a manner that allows them to drift on to neighboring properties or waterways. The mere presence of these pesticides in the ditch water and ultimately in the ocean, is de facto evidence that the companies using these chemicals are breaking the law.

It is reasonable, that our community should expect our state government to investigate the source of the contaminants and enforce the law.

It is reasonable to request that the governor and the Department of Agriculture mandate that the ADC review its tenant leases and include provisions further prohibiting them from applying RUP’s in a manner that allows them to drift or runoff into the ditch system and ultimately the ocean.

It is reasonable to levy stiff fines and penalties should the ADC and/or their tenants — continue to pollute and contaminate Kaua’s near shore waters. The ADC and these tenants know the law and yet they continuously and consciously seek ways to circumvent those requirements established to ensure public safety.

And finally, the ADC should immediately stop discharging this contaminated ditch effluent into the near shore west side waters until they secure the permits they are legally required to have. The permit process allows for further public disclosure and closer scrutiny as to the nature, volume and source of the pollutants. The EPA and the State Department of Health can as a condition of the permit, set pollution limits as well as specify reporting and enforcement parameters.

Please read the court case in its entirety. It’s easy reading and very informative. Read the case and then after your anger and disgust subsides … call the governor and each of your elected representatives. Ask them for action and for accountability — our community deserves it.


Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

  1. Napua July 17, 2019 6:05 am Reply

    Thank Gary Hooser for your great article- so sad that Kaua’i,s families are still being exposed to these chemicals. My son graduated from Waimea high school in 1999- 3 of his classmates had died of cancer prior to 12 grade and then his best friend died of cancer a few years after graduation. Just heartbreaking!

    1. I saw a Vampire once July 17, 2019 10:19 pm Reply

      This is interesting statistics. Not many cancer patients are associated with Waimea high school and cancer. This is only the few. It’s surprising to hear such news. I don’t know the statistics for that, but it is pretty small in comparison to the real issues. Like Waimea High school dying of cancer. One of the few.

  2. Tom Niblick July 17, 2019 9:34 am Reply

    Mahalo Gary for bringing this to our attention. This situation is deplorable. My heart bleeds as I watch my friends die from cancer and lately contract Parkinson’s disease. There has to be a better way to live and more responsible ways to earn a living.

  3. andy July 17, 2019 11:26 pm Reply

    Thank you AGAIN Mr.Hooser, for always fighting the “good fight” and educating all of us as to what’s really going on here on Kauai. As a longtime (40 plus years) resident of the beautiful West side, I consider the ADC to be a personal enemy of me and my family, as well as every other living thing on this island that wants to live some kind of a healthy life. Imagine what this island could be like if there was REAL food being grown on the Mana Plain!

  4. truth be known July 18, 2019 5:47 am Reply

    The chemical companies are not only deplorable, their behavior is criminal. If our State Government wasn’t so “in bed” with these companies, there would be heavy fines imposed and cease and desist orders issued immediately to stop this wanton poisoning of our waterways and oceans. The evidence is overwhelming against them. It’s ironic that so much attention is directed at the telescope on Mona Kea as “desecrating our heritage” yet we fail to notice the real destruction taking place on our own island which will affect our future generations. An intentional “smokescreen” perhaps? It’s time to call your congressperson and demand an end to the poisoning!

  5. ARBITRARY July 18, 2019 11:44 am Reply


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