Council passes glyphosate ban at county parks

  • A family relaxes at Pahoehoe Beach Park on Wednesday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Rebecca Villegas

  • Visitors at Pahoehoe Park relax on the lawn on Wednesday. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

The County Council on Wednesday passed a bill banning the use of Round-Up or other glyphosate-based herbicides at county parks, sending it to Mayor Mitch Roth, who is expected to sign it.

Bill 91, sponsored by Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas, bans herbicides containing glyphosate at all county Parks and Recreation facilities on the island except the Hilo Municipal Golf Course, Hilo Drag Strip and all county cemeteries. The ban would go into effect July 1.


“It’s an exciting day for a lot of people,” Villegas said. “It’s an opportunity to put in writing and codify the means in which our parks will continue to be managed.”

The county has pretty much stopped using glyphosate at most park facilities, opting instead for saltwater and other means of weed control.

Villegas said she worked closely with Maurice Messina, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, to draft the new legislation to ensure it can be implemented upon passage. She added that she’s received, in writing, the administration’s support for the measure.

Messina has spoken in favor of the measure at previous council meetings.

Some 36 members of the public submitted written testimony favoring the bill.

“When the EPA approved Round-Up (glyphosate) for use in the environment and food chain, science had no awareness of the human microbiome,” said Richard Bennett, who holds a Ph.D. in microbiological sciences and immunology, referring to microbes that live in the human gastrointestinal tract. “Recently scientists documented disturbance in the test animal microbiome from lawful exposure levels for glyphosate.”

Another 15 people sent in written testimony opposing the bill and a handful also testified against it at the meeting. Michael Konowicz, a Waikoloa resident who has a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, said much of the problem attributed to glyphosate comes from improper use of the herbicide. The county would be better off making sure workers and residents understood safe use of the product.

“The science clearly shows that there are no risks of human health when glyphosate is used according to the label and that it is definitely not a carcinogen,” Konowicz said. “Attributing health risks to an ingredient proven safe and effective by scientists around the world and embracing non-scientific opinion or emotion does more harm to the community than glyphosate could ever do.”

Kohala Councilman Tim Richards, a veterinarian, was the only no in the 8-1 vote. He said the bill is “anti-agriculture,” fearing it will be a stepping stone to further bans of chemicals needed for farming, even as the island strives to increase its agricultural production.

“I do not support this because it’s not founded on science; it’s founded on emotion,” Richards said.

Council Chairwoman Maile David said Bill 91 doesn’t address private property at all. That debate would come before a future County Council, if at all, she said.

“Had this applied to farmers and ranchers, I would not be supporting that,” David said.

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