LIHU‘E – Kaua‘i’s drinking water is safe and free of the chemical herbicide atrazine, according to David Craddick, manager of the Kaua‘i County Department of Water.
“For decades the department has been monitoring the water for the Waimea-Kekaha water system for a number of chemical contaminants including atrazine,” Craddick said in a news release Tuesday. “While trace amounts of atrazine were detected in some of our water systems, no trace of the chemical was ever found in our Waimea-Kekaha water system, and there has been no detection since 2005.”
Atrazine is one of the world’s most widely-used and controversial herbicides. Manufactured by Syngenta, it has been banned in Europe since 2004 due to groundwater contamination risks. Studies have also suggested it is associated with a number of health problems, including birth defects, cancer and reproductive issues.
The DOW’s latest analysis of the water in Waimea-Kekaha was conducted in October, according to Craddick. No atrazine was detected.
While the DOW has not detected atrazine in Kaua‘i’s drinking water since 2005, water samples collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Waimea Canyon Middle School in February 2011 turned up positive results for the chemical, according to documents provided by Honolulu-based attorney Gerard Jervis.
Jervis represents the Westside community of Waimea in an ongoing lawsuit against Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.
Craddick said the positive results at the school could be a result of the chemical traveling through the air.
“If it’s getting in the dust and blowing around in the wind, that may be an even bigger concern,” he said. “We test at our source.”
The Kaua‘i DOW voted in favor of a settlement in the class action lawsuit, the City of Greenville v. Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc., in August 2012.
The settlement was between $5,000 and $10,000 for atrazine cleanup on Kaua‘i and to recoup costs incurred by the DOW for water testing.
Tuesday’s comments from the DOW came in response to customer concerns regarding atrazine in Kaua‘i’s drinking water systems.
“An increase in customer calls and correspondence appears to have been prompted by a recent article published in The Garden Island newspaper,” states the release.
On March 3, more than 300 people gathered at the Waimea school for a presentation on the effects of atrazine.
The event featured keynote speaker Tyrone Hayes, an expert on the chemical and a biology professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
Hayes said his studies in the lab show the chemical severely decreases testosterone levels in frogs and has the ability to change male frogs into females.
“If I tell you what atrazine does to reproductive capabilities in this frog, you should be thinking, ‘What about me?’” he said during his presentation.
According to Craddick, atrazine was used by the sugar industry as an herbicide and was occasionally detected in some of Kaua‘i’s water sources.
Carl Arume of the Kaua‘i DOW said that since the sugar cane industry came to a halt, so too did the use of atrazine.
“We really haven’t seen it for over a decade or so,” he said.
When the chemical was found in Kaua‘i wells, the levels were below the maximum contamination level established by Environmental Protection Agency, the release states.
The EPA standard is 3,000 parts per trillion. The February 2011 test conducted by the USDA at the Waimea school detected levels of 6 parts per trillion.
“To our knowledge atrazine is not present in amounts that can be detected by modern analytical methodology,” Craddick says.
“In light of the recent interest in atrazine, the water department will be conducting additional testing for atrazine in all of our water sources in the Waimea-Kekaha water system.”
DOW invites the public to attend a community meeting from 6 to 7 p.m. March 22 at the Waimea Neighborhood Center to discuss DOW’s testing procedures and results.
Craddick also encourages concerned citizens to visit the department’s website at www.kauaiwater.org to view the latest water quality report.
Members of the public may also contact DOW’s microbiology lab at 245-5446 with questions regarding testing.
“Our Water Quality Division works diligently, along with the state’s Department of Health Safe Drinking Water Branch, to ensure the quality of your water meets the federal government’s EPA standards,” Craddick says.
• Chris D’Angelo, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.