September 21, 2014

Conspiracy Theroy

or Complacency?

On January 25, 2008 a second incident of pesticide drift occurred at Waimea Canyon Middle School.  Children and adults were once again taken to the hospital, "after inhaling a noxious odor that caused dizziness, headache and nausea" (1). The Hawaii Department of Agriculture sent misuse Inspector Glen Sahara of Hilo to W.C.M.S to lead an investigation of the incident. Without complaint, the Hawaii Office of the Ombudsman completed its own investigation, of the Department of Agriculture. 

Here is the subsequent result of the Ombudsman "investigation" received via e-mail on March 31st, 2008.

In our investigation, we contacted the DOA and learned that although they did not have a Pesticide Specialist on Kauai on January 25, 2008, they were immediately notified of the incident by the Kauai Fire Department (KFD).  A representative of the DOA Pesticides Branch’s Hilo office was able to communicate by phone to the first responders, who included a KFD Captain and a representative of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

It was determined by KFD and Department of Health (DOH) representatives that same afternoon that the source of the odor at WCS was stinkweed that had been handpicked in the field adjacent to the school.  The DOA sent a representative to Kauai on Monday, January 28, 2008 for further investigation.

The DOA followed up with Syngenta Seeds and learned that their last insecticide application prior to January 25, 2008 was on January 24, 2008 at approximately 3:40 p.m. in the field adjacent to WCS.  It was determined that the application of the insecticide Warrior had been properly made by a licensed applicator, and that according to a compass reading taken at the time of the application, the wind was blowing away from WCS at approximately 6 mph.  No other applications were made by Syngenta on the morning of January 25, 2008 that would have caused any odor or pesticide drift at WCS. 

Further follow up was conducted by the DOA that included on-site visits to facilities and homes surrounding WCS.  Staff at the nearby Waimea Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Waimea Athletic Field, as well as neighboring residents, were asked about the incident of January 25, 2008, and about their own pesticide use.  It was learned that a nearby facility had sprayed approximately two ounces of Roundup in their parking area on January 24, 2008, and that some area residents also used weed killers in their yards.  However, no one reported applying any pesticides or insecticides on January 25, 2008.  Of those who were working in the area or at home on the morning of January 25, 2008, no one reported smelling any odor.  Many, however, were familiar with the odor from the stinkweed and a few stated that they had experienced headaches in the past as a result of the strong smell.

As there was no evidence of pesticide involvement in the incident of January 25, 2008, the DOA Pesticides Branch determined that no further action on this matter was warranted.  We find the actions and determination of the DOA to be reasonable and will therefore be closing our file in this case.

Sincerely yours,


Approved by:
Ombudsman, State of Hawaii

What the Hawaii Office of the Ombudsman (audio file) actually did was not an investigation (2).  What they completed was a records review of the Department of Agriculture's Misuse Investigation done by Glen Sahara (KA-08-01). This received letter follows the report almost verbatim. The analyst Yvonne Faria did not interview any of the adults that went to the hospital or eye witnesses, and omitted comments of pesticide odors given by interviewed individuals living in the adjacent neighborhood that were included in Glen Sahara's report.  They also contacted the individual that filed a request with them to investigate Department of Agriculture's influenced investigation after the first incident in 2006, flippantly asking if he was one of the adults that was taken to the hospital during this Jan. 2008 incident (2).  That individual located in a classroom at the opposite end of the campus from where the 2008 drift incident occurred, did not learn of the tragic events that day until the end of the school day.  Days after the Jan. 2008 incident as part of their investigation, Department of Agriculture Misuse inspector Ann Kam found it necessary to swab sample his classroom as part of her investigation.   

"Conspiracy Theory or Complacency?"
To Be Continued...

1. "Noxious odor sends Westside students, teachers to hospital"
by Rachel Gehrlein - THE GARDEN ISLAND
2. Phone message from Yvonne Faria following up on complaint filed in 2006.

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