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State Pesticide Rules Advancing to Board of Agriculture

Wayne Yoshioka

The State is in the process of updating its Pesticide Rules for the first time since 2006.   HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Pesticides reviewed the149-page document of administrative rules and amendments.  Committee member Patrick Bily of Maui says the current definition for surface water is vague and thresholds for contamination are impossible to measure.

“The measurement of parts per million could be radically different within a simple 50 foot distance of a flowing water body due to dispersal, absorption and presence of binding organic matter.  So what might be detected upstream 50 feet later downstream, it may no longer be present.”

Janet Ashman, a former committee member, testified as a private citizen.  She says the rules for surface water will only invite litigation.

“To most people, I think, they would say, ‘Contamination is contamination.’  You got a hit, it’s contaminated.  You know, it doesn’t matter whether the contamination came from unintentional use, and how are you going to really prove that, anyway.  I don’t know how many times in the past several decades, I’ve heard from the public at  public meetings and the legislature, “If it’s there, it’s killing us.”  And they really believe that.”

Reginald Hasegawa, a committee member representing the pesticides industry, says surface water contamination rules are unnecessary.

“I would like to make a motion that we remove the word “surfacewater” from 466-32, Restricted Use Pesticides, Section three.”

The 11-member committee unanimously approved the deletion of surface water rules.   The Committee also discussed streamlining the process for listing state Restricted Use Pesticides.  Steve Russo is the Education and Registration Supervisor for the Department of Agriculture Pesticides Program.

“ The reason it would expedite the whole process is rather than doing a rules change, we just have to get Board of Agriculture approval to add those things to the list.  So, the end effect is the farmers, the general public still has access to that information.  It just adds to our ability to our agency to add things to that list more rapidly.”

Russo says state Restricted Use Pesticides would be subject to the rule-making process, minus public hearings.   But, former committee member Ashman, says that could lead to public misunderstanding.

“If the public sees that, oh, the Department of Ag wants to not go through the public hearing process to add to their restricted use listing.  And you know, if people get the wrong idea that, oh, this is gonna be secretive behind closed doors and they’re saying, “We want to have more input into this.”

Ashman also says there are a few chemicals that farmers need but has taken more than a decade to approve their use.   Committee Chair, John McHugh, who also administers the Department of Agriculture’s Plant Industry Division, says he plans to provide more information on member concerns.

“There’s a lot of misinformation and hysteria out there in the community about agricultural pesticide use, which is actually only about 15 percent of all pesticide use in the state.  There are over 10-thousand products that are registered and licensed in the State of Hawai’i, going all the way from household uses up to purifying our drinking water with.  And we trying to make sure that pesticides are available for use by those who need them and that they’re used properly.”

The draft rules will be reviewed by the State Attorney General and forwarded to the Board of Agriculture for consideration during their July 25th meeting.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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