HAUULA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - North Shore residents say they are very concerned about pesticides in farmlands and how it affects their rural neighborhoods. And the issue drew 40 people to a town hall meeting in Hauula Thursday night.
The gathering was the third in the series, following sessions in earlier this month in Kaneohe and Waialua. Residents got a chance to question state health and agriculture officials. They asked about toxicity levels in pesticides, and had complaints about odors and pesticides drifting from farms to their homes.
"Clean oceans, clean beaches, safe, healthy air. If these are all huge concerns of mine. It all really starts with the soil," said Waialua resident Mike McNeace, who attended all three hearings.
Lawmakers who called for the meetings are optimistic that more can be done to manage pesticide use in the area. "The departments were cut a couple of years ago for budgetary reasons," said state Sen. Gil Riviere (D-Kaneohe, Hauula, Waialua, Kunia). "And we are just now trying to get them back up fully staffed. So I think the future is going to be a bit brighter, with a lot more responsiveness from the agencies."
The town halls have also prompted more information from the Department of Agriculture, which says there were six complaints about pesticide use in the Haleiwa and Waialua areas so far this year. That compares with just one each in 2014 and 2013.
While there was some material about GMO's available at the town hall, the sessions focused on pesticide use and the high concern.
More than 170 people have attended the three sessions. There likely will be a fourth later this month in Waialua because of the interest. Some 120 people attended Tuesday night's town hall there.