Hawaiʻi’s Agribusiness Development Corporation operates a 40-mile drainage ditch system that each day funnels millions of gallons of polluted drainage waters from the Mānā Plain into the ocean near Kekaha and Waimea. The open ditches weave past thousands of acres of pesticide-intensive genetically engineered seed operations, a landfill, a wastewater treatment plant, and populated areas before emptying into popular recreational sites like Majors Bay, Kinikini Ditch, MacArthur Beach Park, and Kīkīaʻola Harbor.
For decades, the drainage ditch system was subject to regulatory oversight, pollution monitoring, and public reporting under a federal Clean Water Act permit issued by the Department of Health. But in August, 2015, ADC decided that it couldn’t be bothered to comply with the law and withdrew its permit renewal application. In May, 2016, the community groups provided ADC notice of their intent to sue and an opportunity to comply with the law. Rather than obtaining a permit or ceasing pollution, ADC continued fouling West Kauaʻi waters. Instead of requiring a permit for the drainage ditch system like it had for decades, the Department of Health condoned ADC’s permit-free pollution.
Many people fish, swim, surf, and boat near the pollution outfalls, where the water quality fails to meet state standards. The Department of Health, the state Department of Agriculture, ADC, and community groups have found toxic pesticides and chemicals like atrazine, chlorpyrifos, glyphosate, metolachlor, arsenic, and selenium in the drainage ditch system along with other pollutants.
Earthjustice, on behalf of community groups Na Kiaʻi Kai, Surfrider Foundation, and Pesticide Action Network, sued Hawaiʻi’s Agribusiness Development Corporation in July, 2016, for violating the Clean Water Act, and both ADC and the state Department of Health for abdicating their constitutional duties to conserve and protect the waters along Kauaʻi’s West Side.