Is A Popular Weed Killer Harming Hawaii's Environment?

Nathan Eagle/ Civil Beat

UPDATED 3/7/2013 10 a.m.

CORRECTION: Larry Jefts Farms does not use atrazine as a weed killer, as stated in a previous version of this story.

For decades, Hawaii sugarcane and pineapple farmers, and increasingly seed corn growers, have sprayed the weed killer atrazine on their fields.

When it rains, the popular herbicide is swept into rivers and streams, threatening plant and aquatic life. Atrazine has been shown to reduce reproduction in fish and amphibians, cause birth defects, and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is toxic to algae and plant life.

But a Civil Beat review of state records and interviews with local regulators shows Hawaii’s rivers, streams and coastal waters are not being tested for the chemical even though the EPA established water safety levels a decade ago and last year required states to regulate pesticides under the Clean Water Act.

The state doesn't track where the chemical is being sprayed and in what quantities.

And atrazine users are largely left to police themselves when it comes to complying with strict EPA guidelines that limit spraying and require setbacks from water resources.

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