Around HawaiiOceanic Time Warner Cable's Community Website
OceanicspacerRoad Runner Mailspacerspacer

Aloha! It's Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Google
 

Sports :: Surf :: Live Green, Surf Clean :: The Aargh of AG

The Aargh of AG

User Graphic
 Based on 0 member reviews
HELP ME WITH RATINGS

For over a century, commercial agriculture had been the backbone of Hawaii's precarious economy. Immigrants from China, Japan, Portugal, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and other faraway places came to the islands to work in the pineapple and sugar fields, creating the social base for our unique mix of cultures. Benefiting from our rich volcanic soil, Hawaiian grown products (legal and otherwise) were and still are renowned as being amongst the world's best in quality. The fading industry still exists in pockets throughout the major Hawaiian islands, but has seen a steady decline over the last forty years, as tourism, construction, and technology take over as the state's economic torches.

There's good and bad in that. The bad being that the closure of these field and processing operations meant hundreds of "unskilled" people lost labor jobs that had been held by their families over generations, flinging them into uncertain futures. The good is that the chronic contamination of our soil and wells, streams and rivers, water tables, and the near shore ocean might recede to fractions of what they'd been when the agricultural industry was at it's zenith ...  "might" being the operative word.

Compounding the problem of recurrent irrigation water leaching into underground water tables, this fertile red but treated topsoil on Oahu's central plains are often caught unplanted in the traditional rainy seasons, which can lead to profuse and muddy runoff into the ocean way off in the distance below.
Compounding the problem of recurrent irrigation water leaching into underground water tables, this fertile red but treated topsoil on Oahu's central plains are often caught unplanted in the traditional rainy seasons, which can lead to profuse and muddy runoff into the ocean way off in the distance below.

Over the decades, millions of gallons of contaminated agricultural water has settled deep into the ground, carrying with it millions of units of pesticides, herbicides, soil treatments and fertilizers. Realistically, it would be impossible to maintain an ongoing cycle of productive crops without these chemicals. However, the cumulative deposits may take decades and possibly centuries to fully degrade, if ever, and they find their way into streams, rivers, aquifers, and ultimately out into the ocean.

My buddies and I have been driving out to Oahu's North Shore since the 70's. In the beginning, we did so blissfully unaware of the impact the pineapple and cane fields we were cutting through were having on the ocean and waves. During and after rains, we'd surf in water that ranged in color from a green tea to a near black chocolate, where you couldn't see your legs as you sat on your board. We'd laugh at each other because our surf trunks had become tinted red from the dirt in the water. It smelled and tasted like dirt, but we sure did score some good and uncrowded waves. Ah, the sweet advantages of youthful ignorance and mindless surf fever.

Sustained irrigation helps quench thirsty crops that in turn feed hungry people, but its waters also serve as the unwitting courier of agricultural seepage and runoff. An unfortunate but necessary evil of commercial agriculture.
Sustained irrigation helps quench thirsty crops that in turn feed hungry people, but its waters also serve as the unwitting courier of agricultural seepage and runoff. An unfortunate but necessary evil of commercial agriculture.

Over the hill and on the other side of the central Oahu slope are Kunia and Village Park, two residential communities who've had a terse and litigious history with the Del Monte Corporation over the "alleged" contamination of it's drinking water supply. Lawyers representing the residents claim that soil and shallow groundwater at the site were contaminated with the fumigants EDB, DBCP and DCP, the solvents TCP and benzene and the pesticide Lindane. Deep groundwater was contaminated with EDB, DBCP and TCP. People who touch or ingest the contaminated groundwater at risk. In 1980, the State ordered the Kunia well removed from service for drinking water purposes. In 1981 and 1983, Del Monte trucked nearly 20,000 tons of soil from the spill area and spread it on nearby fields. The EPA recognized this as an unlawful disposal method of a hazardous substance. Although Del Monte complied with the EPA mandate halting the practice, one has to wonder what kind of monkey business has gone on when prying eyes weren't monitoring industry activities. There were claims that the prolonged ingestion of these chemicals by pregnant woman living in the area caused their babies to suffer devastating birth defects.

Brown water conditions have become so prevalent in West Maui, that its become more the norm than the exception. Its this runoff that is suspected to have caused the immense algae blooms that have occurred in these waters. Photo: Hawaii Coastal Geology Group
Brown water conditions have become so prevalent in West Maui, that its become more the norm than the exception. Its this runoff that is suspected to have caused the immense algae blooms that have occurred in these waters. Photo: Hawaii Coastal Geology Group

The West Maui coastline has long suffered the scourge of agricultural and construction runoff, and the ocean a hundred yards out and miles across is in a seemingly perpetual state of brown. Even on its best days, the sand is stained, the bottom blanketed with a choking silt, and weird amoebic globs of slimy algae pervades the ocean's surface and floor. Beginning in the late 80's, spontaneous algae "blooms" began occurring frequently and on an immense, mind blowing scale. Reefs were smothered by it and thick rafts of the stuff washed up on the beach where it laid rotting in the hot sun. Swarms of flies were attracted by the overwhelming stench. It was and still is a mess. Marine biologists claim that nutrients in runoff fueled the blooms and most of the damage to local reef systems caused by the algal pestilence is irreparable. They also blame the runoff for the increase in tumors seen afflicting wild sea turtles in the area.

Surfers paddle out into a muddy (and sharky) lineup. If local turtles are stricken with skin tumors and reefs are dying, how is the ocean user's health being affected? Photo: Hawaii Coastal Geology Group
Surfers paddle out into a muddy (and sharky) lineup. If local turtles are stricken with skin tumors and reefs are dying, how is the ocean user's health being affected? Photo: Hawaii Coastal Geology Group

Thankfully, there are tireless and vigilant local and national organizations who consistently monitor ocean water quality and lobbying for tighter regulations on the junk that's being put into our drinking water and oceans. Here's some of them:


The views and information contained are not provided or endorsed by Oceanic Time Warner Cable or any its affiliates. The content provided is for general information and entertainment purposes only. Please seek professional advice before acting on any information contained within this web site. Any unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Comments

User Graphic
rxal20 — Sunday, August 10, 2008
reportreply
The author needs to acknowledge that as our environmental consciousness grew (1970's to today) and developed into our current environmental regulatory climate, all industries (from large agriculture to mom&pop stores) changed their businesses to embrace new environment regulations and deal with past trangressions or they closed-down. Most large-scale agriculture and most mom&pop gas stations closed. Unfortunately the demise of large scale agriculture will also yield the following: (1) Urbanization of former AG lands (hello more suburbs, Koa Ridge and Kam/Gentry development Mauka of Ka Uka Blvd, Pamoho estates) (2) Larger non-point pollution sources from 'gentlemen' farmers and new urbanization (e.g. uncle pouring unused solvents into the backyard puka) (3) Buy, hold, re-zone, and develop (yes bulldozing & red dirt run-off occurs during construction of these suburbs) Agriculture incorporating 'enforced' best management practices would provide: (1) storm water control of vacant agricultural lands (brown water runoff entering oceans), (2) keep the last portion of Oahu rural character intact (3) reduce Hawaii's reliance on imported food and our collective carbon footprint (i.e. Matsons fuel to ship in California avocados) In short, a good solution would be to keep the AGRICULTURAL lands zoned and used for actual agriculture, and not for land speculation for urban-development.



Add Your Own Comment

Please be short and to the point, and respect the other voices in the discussion. You may edit and delete comments for up to three days after date of post. We reserve the right to edit or delete inappropriate comments. For more information read our site policies »

In order to comment, you must be logged in. Login | Register | Help


20140226-20140629_CeramicTiles




Email Article to a Friend


Become a Columnist
Are you an expert in your own field? Do you know somebody who is? Fill out our online form and tell us about it. We'll select and consider those who fit the bill!



Oceanic on Twitter Oceanic on Facebook