Clarification of herbicide policy sought

  • Ashley Kierkiewicz

  • Sue Lee Loy

After a ban on the use of herbicides by county workers was definitively quashed last month, two Hawaii County Council members are introducing a resolution that will clarify the county’s position on herbicide use.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Committee on Agriculture, Water, Energy and Environmental Management, council members will hear Resolution 475-20, which codifies the county administration’s efforts to regulate the use of certain herbicides which some people believe to be a public health risk.

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“I hope the takeaway from this is that the council is still listening,” said Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, one of the two members introducing the resolution. “We’re still trying to find commonalities. We hope this keeps people engaged in the conversation. We don’t want people to come out of our last meeting feeling like they lost.”

At the last meeting of the Hawaii County Council, a bill that would have banned the use of several different herbicides over the course of four years was rejected after the council voted 5-4 against overriding a veto by Mayor Harry Kim.

Lee Loy and Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz — who also is co-introducing the resolution — both voted against the veto override, to the dismay of dozens of vocal opponents of the bill who had gathered to testify against the use of herbicides.

As written, the resolution establishes a list of the county’s goals with regard to herbicides, including a broad commitment to reducing herbicide use by the county and a plan to appoint a vegetation management advisory commission that would provide updates to the council on its progress every two months.

The resolution dovetails with a presentation by Maurice Messina, executive assistant to Kim, at the same committee meeting. That presentation will focus on the administration’s pledge to form a committee to establish herbicide best practices, according to a request filed by Lee Loy.

Messina said his presentation will come one day after a database tracking all county departments’ use of herbicide comes online, although he added that he is unsure whether that database will be accessible by the public.

Beyond that, he said he will discuss herbicide training courses that have taken place in county departments after Kim’s veto.

Those training courses included refreshers on the proper uses of herbicides, the contents and hazards of those herbicides, and the appropriate use of protective equipment, Messina said.

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“I’m hopeful that with the presentation from Maurice, the resolution will help hold the administration accountable to its commitment,” Lee Loy said.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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