Representatives support collaborative efforts and steps to protect residents
The House Committee on Health & Human Services, chaired by Rep. John M. Mizuno, and the Committee on Agriculture, chaired by Rep. Richard P. Creagan, held an informational briefing today to update the status and progress of the Kauai Pesticide Joint Fact Finding (JFF) Study Group’s recommendations released last year.
The report, completed in May 2016, provided an analysis of environmental and health issues associated with pesticide use on Kauai, and today’s briefing was to hear how the various state and county departments had followed up on the group’s recommendations. Lawmakers also want to make sure continued environmental and human health impacts related to pesticides are addressed with fact-based policy and decision making.
Rep. Mizuno (Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights, Lower Kalihi) said pesticide use will continue to be an important issue for Hawaii and will be discussed during the next legislative session.
“I want to acknowledge the state departments of Health, Agriculture, and Education along with the County of Kauai, and the Kauai Department of Water for working together on the pesticide issue and taking positive steps to protect residents,” said Mizuno. “This is a critical health and environmental issue that we need to have consensus and solution building to stay in front of.”
At the briefing, department representatives reported that steps taken since May, 2016 include:
· The hiring of three new agriculture inspectors that has reduced the number of open pesticide investigation cases from 780 to less than 10.
· Funding to hire an epidemiologist by the Department of Health.
· Training of departments and first responders to coordinate rapid response to pesticide exposure incidents.
· Training of the local medical community to record birth defect data.
· Testing more than 50 surface water areas for pesticides on Oahu and Kauai and planning to expand testing to Maui and Hawaii Island.
Scott Enright, Chair of the Board of Agriculture told the Representatives that the Department of Agriculture has also developed a packet of rules that update Hawaii’s pesticide laws and regulations.
Rep. Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa) said lawmakers see these as positive steps and want to make sure the departments have the resources they need to continue their efforts.
“This has been good information to direct us moving forward on this issue,” Belatti said.
Rep. Dee Morikawa, (Niihau, Lehua, Koloa, Waimea) said Kauai County has developed a pesticide policy and she suggested all four counties work together to develop a statewide policy on pesticide use, testing, enforcement and treatment.
“Let’s have a plan that allows proper pesticide use, protects our residents and notifies communities if there is any possible contamination,” Morikawa said.
Rep. Creagan (Naalehu, Ocean View, Capt. Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona) said he is concerned about the long-term effects of exposure to pesticides.
“I am concerned with the possibility of birth defects, particularly nerodevelopmental injuries to the fetus from long-term, low level pesticide exposure, especially related to chlorpyrifos,” said Creagan.