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Pesticide Ban Advances to Council

October 15, 2019, 5:57 PM HST
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Councilmember Rebecca Villegas.

The Hawai‘i County Council Committee on Agriculture, Water, Energy and Environmental Management voted 7-0 today to advance Bill 101, a pesticide ban in Hawai‘i County, with a positive recommendation to the Council late Tuesday night.

The bill prohibits the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides on all Hawai‘i County roads, parks, waterways, drainage ways, trails, sidewalks and bikeways.

The bill was introduced by Councilwoman Rebecca Shute-Villegas.

Realtor and mother Ivory Kalber of Hawaiian Paradise Park told Big Island now, “I fully support Bill 101. I’m amazed we even have to have this conversation in 2019. They are poisoning our children and animals. They are poisoning us. This must stop now.”

Many residents islandwide testified in support of the ban. Prominent local businessman Ed Olsen was among them.

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“The herbicide issue has been on the table before this body for 30 years,” Olsen said. “It has only gotten worse. We have to get away from this. It is a failed methodology.”

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Many residents testified to their concern about glyphosate and the possibility of detrimental health impacts associated with it, as well as the potential of liability issues its use could create for the county.

Several residents addressed concerns over links between pesticides and lymphoma. One resident testified that lymphoma is the tip of the iceberg. He said pesticides are known to cause birth defects and are endocrine disrupters.

In June, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, who won a lawsuit against Monsanto after suffering from non-Hodgkins lymphoma linked to glyphosate exposure while working as a school groundskeeper, met with Hawai‘i County officials to share his story.

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After Johnson met with Hawai‘i Department of Education officials, a statement was released stating that herbicides would no longer be used on any public school grounds in the state.

Beyond Pesticides, an organization that advocates against the use of pesticides, offered its services in transitioning from pesticide use to alternative methods. Those include education, training, soil testing, troubleshooting issues and continuous support.

Beyond Pesticides is offering to contribute 100% of the cost of training, soil testing and other associated costs with site evaluation.

Hawai‘i County Public Works Director David Yamamoto told the Council that the county has reduced its use of pesticides by 50%, but that it is having trouble lowering the numbers because controlling grass growth along highways has become a struggle.

Yamamoto said the department is open to education and training on alternative methods. He said in the future, the department will likely need funding for additional manpower and equipment to implement the changes.

The bill allows exemptions for pesticide use for non-county agricultural lands, private property and emergency circumstances.

To see the full bill, go online.

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