Legal, Water Quality
May 06 2016

Surfrider Kaua’i Chapter Will Sue Over Pesticide Pollution and Clean Water Act Violations

by Angela Howe

This week Surfrider Foundation, alongside community group Na Kiaʻi Kai and the Pesticide Action Network, as represented by Earthjustice attorneys, notified Hawaii’s Agribusiness Development Corporation ("ADC") that the Coalition will sue the state agency for allowing pesticides and chemicals to contaminate a 40-mile-long drainage ditch system on the Mana Plain of Kauai’s beautiful west side. The coalition sent a Notice of Intent to Sue letter on May 3, 2016 in an attempt to stop ADC from polluting public waters.

The ADC is a state agency under the Hawaii Department of Agriculture created in 1994 and charged with transitioning Hawai‘i’s agriculture industry from sugar and pineapple to diversified agriculture. The ADC was specifically in charge of regulation of the Mānā Plain for over a decade and maintained a water quality permit duringthat time. In July 2015, however, the agency decided not to renew their permit, thereby avoiding compliance with requirements to set water quality baselines and prevent harms from pesticides.  Meanwhile, the effluent produced by this site is known to contain 22 restricted use pesticides (“RUP”s).  The failure to renew the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit last August spurred the need for this lawsuit under the Clean Water Act, which prohibits discharge of pollutants into the nation’s waters without that permit.

These unpermitted discharges are of concern because they occur at two locations along Barking Sands Beach, which is a popular site for fishing, swimming, surfing, and boating, located between Polihale State Park and Kekaha Beach Park and is used by Surfrider members.  The Kaua’i Chapter has worked with state and federal agencies to improve water quality and relay their water quality testing results to the public and government regulators.

The extensive use of pesticides by large scale mono-crop agriculture has led to pesticide pollution in measurable quantities in groundwater, streams and nearshore waters of Kaua'i. The Chapter has been very concerned with pesticide pollution effects on water quality on the island.  successfully advocated for “right to know” legislation that will allow public knowledge about the pesticides that are being used and tested on the island. Unfortuantely, this legislation is being challenged in court. Earthjustice is also currently representing Surfrider Foundation on defense of the Kaua’i “Right to Know” HB 2491 legislation before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.