Thursday, December 17, 2015

Musings: Goose Chase

The Kauai Joint Fact Finding Group's draft report on pesticide use — set for release on Sunday — has been delayed until Jan. 6.

Why? Because “Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura has requested we change the public comment period in light of the holidays,” wrote JFFG Facilitator Peter Adler in Update #7.

It's unclear why JoAnn should have any say in the group's proceedings. What's more, her meddling actually works against the public interest. Now folks will have just five days — rather than 22 — to read and digest the document before the JFFG holds a public briefing on it Jan. 11.

Initially, the draft report was due to be posted on line Dec. 20, with public comments taken through Jan. 13. Now it's set for release on Jan. 6, with the public comment period ending Jan. 31. In any case, the briefing remains scheduled for Jan. 11, giving folks precious little time to prepare.

Regardless of the report's timing, it appears the JFFG has found no smoking gun, uncovered no evidence to support the oft-uttered claims that the seed companies are sickening folks on Kauai.

But that hasn't stopped certain interested parties — namely Councilman Gary Hooser — from trying to dredge something up. Last month, he began pressing the county water department to test Kauai's drinking water for the pesticide chlorpyrifos.

Why, you might ask, did Hooser only now make such a request, when it's been known for years that the seed companies apply it? (Golf courses and pest control companies use it, too.) Indeed, Hooser and other anti-GMO activists have fingered chlorpyrifos as the source of numerous human health woes. But they never requested testing until the JFFG, which will also address “Recent Pesticide Developments” concerning glyphosate and chlorpyrifos, is on the eve of releasing its report.

Studies have linked chlorpyrifos to neurological and other development problems, especially when there's prenatal exposure. But the key here is exposure. Hooser and the anti-GMO activists have consistently claimed that westsiders are being harmed by pesticide drift when chlorpyrifos is applied to the fields. This contention has underscored their demands for both disclosure and buffer zones.

Meanwhile, in the real world of science, the EPA has been conducting a review of chlorpyrifos for the past several years. Its studies have effectively undermined the contention that Kauai folks are even being exposed to airborne chlorpyrifos, much less harmed by it. To wit:

To increase protection for children and other bystanders, chlorpyrifos technical registrants voluntarily agreed to lower application rates and to other spray drift mitigation measures. The resulting buffer distances (feet) necessary to reach the level of concern for adults (females 13-49 years old) and children (1 to < 2 years old) with use of certain application rates, nozzle droplet types, and application methods range from 0 to 25 feet.The estimated buffer distances are less than those agreed to by the technical registrants in July 2012. 

Furthermore, emphasis added:

In January 2013, a preliminary assessment of the potential risks from chlorpyrifos volatilization was conducted. However, this assessment was revised in June 2014 following submission of two vapor phase inhalation toxicity studies which indicate no adverse effects occurred even at the saturation concentration for chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos oxon. Because these new studies demonstrated that no toxicity occurred even at the saturation concentration, which is the highest physically achievable concentration, there are no anticipated risks of concern from exposure to the volatilization of either chlorpyrifos or chlorpyrifos oxon.

It appears, then, that Kauai people are not at risk from either chlorpyrifos drift or volatilization, as has been widely claimed by Hooser and the anti-GMO activists. And with the seed companies voluntarily agreeing to 100-foot buffers, any risk is even further minimized.

So if you're trying to make chlorpyrifos the bad guy, the source of so many health woes among westsiders, you've got to try and find another source of exposure, with food and water the only possible culprits.

The EPA report notes:

Though there do not appear to be any risks from exposure to chlorpyrifos from food, when that exposure is combined with estimated exposure from drinking water in certain watersheds, EPA cannot conclude that the risk from the potential aggregate exposure meets the FFDCA safety standard.

There may be potential risks for people whose drinking water comes from small water systems in heavily farmed areas where chlorpyrifos may be widely used. 

Hence, Hooser's request for water testing. Because he's concluded that west Kauai is one of those “vulnerable watersheds." 

Is it? Well, according to data from the Good Neighbor program, the seed companies applied chlorpyrifos to about 1500 acres over the past two years. That's less than a tenth of the land they lease and a fraction of the overall westside acreage. Is that an intensive use in a small watershed? The state and county apparently don't think so.

On Nov. 2, Hooser sent a memo to Kirk Saiki, manager and chief engineering of the county Department of Water (DOW). Gary wanted to know if DOW is testing for chlorpyrifos in the county's drinking water. If so, had detectable levels been found, and where? And if not, why not?

Kirk replied that the EPA “has set a guideline for chlorpyrifos in drinking water at 2 ug/l (micrograms per liter or parts per billion), but has not set a drinking water standard likely due to the fact that chlorpyrifos exhibits a low solubility in water.”

DOW does not test for chlorpyrifos, Kirk said, but it did consult with the state Department of Health (DOH) “to determine if there was a concern about chlorpyrifos contamination of the groundwater on Kauai.”

The DOH noted that the largest user of chlorpyrifos is corn, and the organophosphate is applied to the plant, not the ground, so it has more potential to drift than fall to the ground. What's more, it has a short half-life of 51 days. Additionally, a model developed by DOH and the University of Hawaii to predict the leaching potential of chlorpyrifos “shows the chance of groundwater contamination by chlorpyrifos on Kauai to be unlikely.”

Even the EPA is not especially concerned about groundwater. It specifically notes, exposure to chlorpyrifos-oxon in drinking water derived from surface water may pose an exposure concern.” Kauai drinking water is primarily derived from groundwater sources, except in parts of Lihue.

So why not just go ahead and test? Well, testing costs money, and the water department already tests for dozens of compounds, including atrazine and glyphosate, that it believes are more likely than chlorpyrifos to find their way into water supplies.

In today's The Garden Island, Hooser is quoted as saying, in opposition to a half-percent increase in the general excise tax:

“Experience has taught me that we never have enough money to do what we need to do. I’m looking for other funding options.”

If Hooser sincerely believes the public is at risk from chlorpyrifos, and the county and state are derelict for not testing, perhaps he could convince one of his wealthy donors to pick up the tab. Or maybe HAPA and Center for Food Safety could have paid for some actual tests, rather than send people on a propaganda mission to Switzerland or bring in Vandana Shiva for yet another talk.

But then, why would they waste their own dough on a wild goose chase when they can try to bully public agencies into footing the bill?


Anonymous said...

The West side water shed is far from fields. Miles. While there is a low water table on the west side lower flats, the drinking water wells are further up and take water coming down from the upper forest, in some cases the water is years old. There are a few private lower wells in the flats and fields that take water from the first aquifer, but this is irrigation water.,

Anonymous said...

Hmmm Tell me again Joan why a member of the Kauai County Council should be admonished for requesting that drinking water in the west side be tested? Given EPA statement of concern about water contamination possibilities in areas where there are small water systems and intensive use, seems like a reasonable request to me.

Joan Conrow said...

7:54 -- OK, I'll tell you again, since you seemed to miss it in the blog post. One, it appears unlikely that westside watersheds meet the definition of vulnerable; two, Hooser is making the request not because he's truly concerned about public safety, in which case he would have demanded testing before 2491 even got introduced, but because he hopes to find something, anything, to augment claims that he has been falsely leveling.

Anonymous said...

LOL....boom! @ 8:31am, drops the mic. Yeah Ms. Joan!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Joan for the further explanation. I understand now I think. It is Hoosers intent that is the problem and not the substance of the question itself. Got it!

Anonymous said...

But there are traces of roundup in ground wells in Kekaha---my friend had their well water tested and the results were positive! Yep, i am sure there will be no traces in the drinking water (i hope!!), but i am glad someone is attempting to find out. Whatever the cause for the request, it will benefit all of us to find out---don't most people have their own motivations when they do things, many times it turns out for the good of all. Knowledge is power!

Anonymous said...

How does anyone know anyone's intent? Stupid. What matters is substance of question. Is there an ethics, theology or philosophy student or professor that can advise us here?

Anonymous said...

@ 10:30am So were the test results shared and with whom? if not then, friend this, my friend that.

Anonymous said...

Sure would like to see the results of any testing being done. Seeing is believing. There are a lot of issues that need attention for Kauai. Landfill issues, road resurfacing issues, shearwater issues, illegal B&B's and TVR's, Cow shit issues(not to be confused with Bullshit). Tax issues(vehicle weight, real property, solid waste, wastewater, etc.) Being a Council person requires real skills to entertain Kauai's issues. A Council person should represent all of us on Kauai.

Anonymous said...

Any tests need to be done island wide, around golf courses, hotels, rich neighborhoods and poor ones alike or it is worthless. DOH regularly tests for an array of pesticides. We should be concerned for the young local families that just moved into the housing project in Princeville that is next to the pesticide mixing station.

Anonymous said...

11:44--Yes, the findings have been shared on numerous occasions, even found it in the person's urine. I am sure the people who did the study know about the poison found in the well. I agree with 12:49, all our waters should be tested---isn't that the job of government--to protect the citizens?!!

Anonymous said...

Testing surely will cause no harm to the public. Chemicals in water may cause harm to the public. Therefore testing seems a reasonable thing to do. And Joan, please tell us how you happen to know what Garyʻs intent is? Did you ask him? Who knows Garyʻs intent better than Gary? How do you know he is not concerned about public safety? Could you please back up your statement with facts? Do you ever speak with Gary to find out what he actually thinks? Mahalo.

Joan Conrow said...

I don't have a problem with doing any warranted testing. I do have a problem with politicians using it to advance a socio-political agenda and exploiting fear for their own gains, as Gary has done consistently. Asking someone, especially someone who has shown himself to be truth-challenged and devoid of introspection, is not always a good way to discern intent. People lie to themselves all the time. Gary's actions and rhetoric are very revealing and shed ample light on his intent.

Anonymous said...

Joan at 5:04 I have seen no evidence that Da Hoos or JoAnn have ever done anything for personal vendettas, pipe dreams or socio-political agendas. These are two purists. They work hard for all of the people, are concise, clear speaking and stand for local values. (Local values as dictated by their NS elites)

On the other hand, Gary and the Council are using an average income of $100,000 per household as the benchmark as they sleaze thru justifying a 20 percent increase in the taxes we pay. $100,000 per household? Maybe some households do, but only after working 3 to 4 jobs per couple.
Work your tail off and the Council will tax you. Better to go on welfare, get one of JoAnn's apartments or work for the County. At least at the County you will make $100,000 after a few years.
Watching the Council do calculations that diminish the real effects of the horrendous GET is astounding. Each one of these Babeezes that vote in favor of a TAX that penalizes every man, woman and child on the island should be slowly exposed to barking dogs, smoking chimneys and endless potholes.
Just the beginning of taxation....wait until the Property Tax review comes up.
Plus the water department just raised their meter fees 300 percent. Plenty money floating around everywhere, except in the poor citizen's pocket.
Thank you, Ms Conrow for your fine work on TVRs and BS politicians like Da Hoos.

Anonymous said...

err excuse me 6:03pm. Hoos and Joann are opposing the tax increase. It is your buddy Ross and Arryl that are going to be the two guys pushing this elephant through the room.

Anonymous said...

6:12 Ross and Mel were tha two guys trying to stop the all the tav increases made by the previous council. Including the real property cap removal, now Hooser wants to put a cap back on? Hooser is the biggest Loser of all time. He going down next election, hopefully he will move his ass back to Honolulu.

Anonymous said...

Kauai County under this Mayor has doubled the budget. Mostly in employee hiring.
No Capital Improvements, but lots of salary, overtime and the the big kicker...pensions and medical forever.
The County knows that half the tax payers are off island owners and don't vote. 20 percent of the voters are rich new comers that come from areas where prop tax pays for Schools, so are delighted at paying 1 percent instead of more. Someone in the County is a genius on tax extortion and the demographics of the changing Kauai.

So the locals are stuck in multi-generational housing, bad roads and not one f*cking half-way affordable in sight. JoAnn's bike paths, the new water fees, the new Planning Director NOT giving clear direction of how many houses may be built on a piece of land all contribute to the problem. The Mayor is a good guy, but going to parties every night doth not put houses in our people's future.
And for the the County to call new housing "workforce" housing is insulting....howzabout just calling it "housing"
Kauai has some of the best builders, engineers and land guys in the US. Everyone knows how to do it...but the County prefers to keep the people in tight packed sub-ds like Kapahi, Hanamaulu etc

Anonymous said...

the county does not want urban sprawl.

Anonymous said...

10:30 I am responding to your comment about traces of glyphosate being found in your friend's well water. Just because something can be detected, does not mean it is dangerous. We have the technology to detect substances in parts per trillion these days (a part per trillion is the same as one drop of water into 400 Olympic size swimming pools). EPA and Dept. of Health have levels established for safety and if a substance is found to be in higher concentrations than what is safe....then there is a problem. Many time substances are detected in trace amounts and these amounts are waaaay below what is considered to be a risk for human health; simply because our technology and ability to detect have gotten so much better. Detection does not automatically mean there is a problem.

Anonymous said...

Just saying, there is glyphosate in the well water, i am not saying it is in concentrations that are harmful. I am saying it is present and this is why someone should check this all out to make sure it's not harmful. But then, if it is present even in small amounts, there is a problem! Would you keep drinking your water with junk in it? Or would you call Menehune Water to deliver water for your consumption?

Anonymous said...

A certain amount of trace pollutants, or perhaps even higher concentrations (trace means it is ineffectual for all purposes) can be expected in the first Kekaha aquifer. The sandy soils allows easy passage and is a poor insulator. However this water is only used for irrigation (and I encourage all who can do so). The aquifer is only four feet deep towards makai. The last pollution source is more than a hundred feet from the high water mark allowing some filtration. The water then passes into the ocean, exit depth unknown, where the aquifer is diluted to the point of indetectiblity

Anonymous said...

4:47 "Would you keep drinking your water with junk in it?"
The people of Flint, MI trusted the governments "safe to drink" assurances, but something smelled fishy now Flint and the rest of us can look forward to a couple hundred thousand US citizens that will never be as smart as they might have been. As lead in a child’s blood rises, IQ drops. If the lead level goes up from less than 1 microgram per deciliter to 10 micrograms, IQ goes down an average of 7 points – and keeps on dropping as lead levels increase. A 1991 study showed that a remarkable 88 percent of American children under the age of 6 had lead levels high enough to stunt their mental and physical development. Even now, 20 years after the not-quite-total banning of leaded gasoline, 26 percent of all children in the U.S. – and about half of black children – have lead levels ranging from 5 to 10 micrograms per deciliter.

Lead is the enemy of intelligence and the friend of mayhem. Their is no safe level!

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, I have often wondered why the antiGMO activists have been totally silent about lead when so many westside kids live in houses with peeling and cracked lead paint.

Anonymous said...

6:40 Big anti-lead advocate yourself Joan? Write about the westside lead problem much on this blog do you? I didn't think so1

Joan Conrow said...

Well, then you would think wrongly! I've actually written about it a number of times on this blog since I was exposed to lead in an old house in Anahola.

But it would be good to bring it back up, especially with the JFFG report coming out. Because so many of the health claims that antiGMO activists have made and blamed on pesticides could also be linked to lead, but they haven't even entertained that possibility.