Maui public school

The recent release of environmental test results, which were conducted by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, in the homes of Paia residents (after occupants filed pesticide overspray complaints) have sparked concerns for those living in Paia. 

According to the Director of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Scott Enright, between five and twelve homes in Paia have tested positive for multiple herbicides and Restricted Use Pesticides in the past several years. Different levels of Atrazine, 2-4D, Diuron, Dicamba, Hexazinone, Pendimethalin, and Ametryn were found both inside and outside of the homes that were tested. With these levels and combinations, it is evident that the overspray comes from the bordering HC&S fields and the chemicals that are heavily used in sugar cane production.

As of today, the Department of Agriculture has NOT closed any of the cases, issued any citations, openly warned surrounding homes about the potential dangers, advised residents how to decontaminate their homes, nor notified the State Toxicologist to assess the health risks of residents being exposed. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA – Region 9 in California) has now stepped up their federal oversight of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. However, the Department of Agriculture is refusing to release the results of other homes that tested positive for chemical contamination.

On 2/19/15 Scott Enright testified in front of the House Agricultural Committee on the Pesticide Buffer Zone bill (HB 1514). In his testimony (at 2:34:00), he claimed that pesticide drift could be controlled and implied that it was not a problem, and he failed to disclose to the House Agriculture Committee that multiple homes had tested positive for pesticide drift.

Thomas Matsuda also testified in front of the Senate Agriculture Committee on 2/12/15 and, he NEVER mentioned that homes on Maui were testing positive for Herbicides and Restricted Use Pesticides. Thomas Matsuda’s decision to withhold the information regarding positive test results from State Senators may have influenced the outcome of legislation, because the Pesticide buffer Zone Bill was not passed.

Dr. Barbara Brooks, the State Toxicologist, stated that it would be prudent to wash down the interior surfaces of your home if it has been contaminated with pesticide or herbicide residues. However, because Scott Enright at the Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture is refusing to release more information about the contaminated homes, residents will need to decide for themselves how to respond to protect the health of their families. 

It is worth noting that despite its close proximity to contaminated homes, Thomas Matsuda has refused to proactively test Paia Elementary School for herbicide and pesticide contamination, even though it is common knowledge that children suffer the most from the harmful effects of these chemicals.

Calls are growing for an independent investigation of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Pesticides Branch, for failing to investigate the multiple pesticide overspray cases in a timely manner, for failing to inform the State Toxicologist of the positive test results, for failing to warn nearby neighbors of the potential concerns, for failing to close any of these cases, and for withholding information about positive test results from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees last year.

CALL TO ACTION: Governor Ige’s office is aware of this developing situation on Maui.  If you would like to get involved, please call Governor Ige’s Office at (808) 586-0034 to let him know that you would like him to allocate funds to proactively test Paia Elementary School for chemical contamination and you would like an independent investigation into the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

Our lives and our children’s are worth it.

Image Credit: Shannon Brown

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