Big Island Mayor Vetoes Herbicide Measure

Dec 15, 2019

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim has vetoed a measure to ban use of herbicides in county owned and maintained parks and areas along roadways.

The Big Island Video News reported the mayor raised concerns about Bill 101, including regulatory and operational issues. Had it taken effect, the herbicide ban would have been the first among Hawaii counties.

The County Council voted 6-3 in November to ban use of certain herbicides over four years. Supporters cited studies that show links between certain herbicides and health issues like cancer, decreased cognitive functioning and behavior problems in children. They also cited the herbicides impact on marine life.

The bill called for an end of herbicide use in county parks, areas along roads, bikeways, sidewalks, drainage and trails. The ban would not have applied to private property or to areas adjacent to county easements or county-leased agricultural land. 

In his veto message to the council, the mayor said the county does not have the expertise to determine which herbicides are dangerous, harmful or would expose the public to high risk.

He noted that the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Agriculture regulate pesticides and pesticide use. Kim also said there was "no basis or explanation" for why 23 herbicides in particular were targeted in the bill.

The mayor further raised operational issues, including the posting of notices 24 hours ahead of time in areas where herbicides would be used, noting that conditions like wind and rain would render the notice requirement "irrational" without some flexibility in the timing.

Kim recommended a number of amendments to the bill and said his administration would support a committee to help guide the county's practices in managing vegetation with the goal of reducing use of herbicides.