Hawaii County Council bans herbicide use on public property

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — The Hawaii County Council has become the first local government in the state to ban the use of herbicides on public property, officials said.

The council passed a bill Wednesday to ban the use of 30 herbicides over four years, West Hawaii Today reported.

The ban covers parks and areas alongside roads, bikeways, sidewalks, trails, drainage, and waterways owned or maintained by the county, officials said.

The bill does not apply to private property or to residents who maintain land adjacent to county easements or lease agricultural land from the county, officials said.

Scientific studies show links between herbicides and cancer, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems in children, as well as damage to marine environments, supporters said.

“Cigarettes used to be safe. Climate change used to be fake,” Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder said. “A lot of things we thought were safe, we’ve found would kill us.”

Opponents believe the county’s bill is too expansive and could lead to a larger ban.

Councilman Tim Richards voted against the measure, which he called “too over-arching, too far-reaching.” Three of the banned chemicals target weeds in soybeans and corn, which the county does not grow, he said.

“The last thing we need to do is put anything in the way of agriculture to prevent it growing forward,” Richards said. “I completely support the intent, but I do not support the way this bill is written.”

Parks and Recreation Director Roxcie Waltjen estimated the department would need 400 additional park maintenance workers to implement the measure, at a cost of about $39,000 per worker. Public Works Director David Yamamoto will also need more staff and equipment, but he did not have an estimate.

Both departments have already cut their herbicide use by half, they said.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com