Hawaii County committee approves banning herbicide use

October 17, 2019

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — A Hawaii County Council committee has approved a proposed ban on using herbicides on county property, news reports said.

The Agriculture, Water, Energy and Environmental Management Committee voted Tuesday to forward the bill to the first of two required council hearings.

The bill sponsored by Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas would ban herbicide use for four years in several categories of property owned by the county. The bill calls for a transition period starting in January and a complete ban implemented by 2024.

The ban would apply to county agencies that maintain public areas including parks, roadsides, sidewalks, trails, drainageways, and waterways.

Private property owners would not be affected, officials said.

The proposal includes a long list of specific chemicals to be banned, along with examples of products that contain the substances, such as weed killers with glyphosate. Glyphosate’s connection to cancer in humans remains a subject of scientific and legal debate.

The bill would require the public works department to hire a consultant to train work crews, said Director David Yamamoto.

The parks and recreation department would also request additional funding for personnel and equipment, said Deputy Director Maurice Messina.

A previous herbicide ban proposal resulted in difficulties defining what should be considered toxic, said Blake Watson, a Hawaii Sierra Club representative who helped draft the bill.

“We decided to make a different kind of system that specifically laid out the chemicals without getting in the quagmire of what’s toxic and what’s dangerous, which gets really murky,” Watson said. “If the county wants to add to (the list), they can add to it.”