State’s routine maintenance of a major irrigation ditch raises environmental concerns

Updated: Jul. 18, 2020 at 5:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Environmental watchdogs are raising alarms about the state’s use of the herbicide Roundup in one of Oahu’s largest irrigation systems.

Last week, a viewer snapped photos of a worker spraying the weedkiller not just along the banks of the ditch but directly in the stream itself, which carries water to farms in Central Oahu and the Ewa Plain.

“This was more shocking than anything I’ve viewed,” said environmental activist Carroll Cox.

“The guy is standing on one side, spraying across the other, number one that’s an insult.”

But the manufacturers says its products are safe. And the state said this particular weedkiller -- Roundup Custom -- has been approved for use there. According to the manufacturer, Roundup Custom was developed for aquatic use.

“The Agribusiness Development Corporation reports that the irrigation worker was spraying approved herbicide,” said Hawaii Agriculture Department spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi.

The Waiahole Water System is not a source for drinking water.

But environmental activist Carroll Cox said the active ingredient in all Roundup products -- glyphosate -- has been linked to cancer.

He worries that the chemical not only will build up in the soils where crops are farmed but will pollute Oahu’s coastlines.

During the past year, juries have awarded tens of millions of dollars to people who said they got cancer from using Roundup.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have been seeking to ban the active ingredient in the product for years.

“There’s already been a handful of bills in recent years that have started to phase out the use of these kinds of dangerous pesticides on public property where it might enter our water stream or affect people, especially in public parks,” said state Rep. Chris Lee (D) Kailua.

“Other states, other municipalities, other countries have already begun to phase out Roundup.”

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