Hawaii County moves closer to ban its use of toxic herbicides and pesticides

Published: Oct. 16, 2019 at 10:11 PM HST
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HILO, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii County agencies would no longer be allowed to use a long list of toxic chemics to control pests and weeds if a new measure becomes law.

A Hawaii County Council committee Tuesday approved bill 101, which would prohibit the county from using toxic herbicides and pesticides along parks, roads, bikeways, sidewalks, trails, drainage ways and waterways.

The state has already banned sprays that contain chlorpyrifos, a chemical that was heavily used to control worms and insects. Similar chemicals are also banned from use on school ground and within a hundred feet of school property.

Residents islandwide spoke out in support of the ban, noting that at least one of the chemicals on the list causes cancer.

“The World Health Organization has now classified glyphosate as a carcinogen,” said Jade McGaff, a Waimea physician. “Our children now -- 50 perent have an autoimmune disorder.”

“The information is there now. There’s no more denial. A lot of people still want to deny it. They want to say it’s ok, it’s safe. But it’s there. Lawsuits are there. Everyting is there. It’s happening all over the place,” Jeffrey Last of Pahoa told the committee.

McGaff and Last were among the dozens who testified during a nearly four-hour long hearing. There were also 295 people who submitted written testimony. Of those, only two letters did not support the bill.

“Currently we have attempted to reduce our herbicide, use, and they have reduced it by 50 percent, but they continue struggling with trying to keep the grass down on the side of the road,” said county Public Works Director David Yamamoto.

Glyphosate, commonly known by the brand name Roundup, is just one pesticide on the long list that the county would no longer be allowed to use.

The bill now goes to the full council. If the measure becomes law, it would take effect in 2024.

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