Kauai residents were reassured by county officials last week that their drinking water is safe from the chemical herbicide atrazine.
David Craddick, manager of the Kauai County Department of Water, said no trace of atrazine has ever been found in the Waimea-Kekaha water system, according to Wednesday’s Garden Island newspaper.
"For decades the department has been monitoring the water for the Waimea-Kekaha water system for a number of chemical contaminants, including atrazine," Craddick said in a news release Tuesday. "While trace amounts of atrazine were detected in some of our water systems, no trace of the chemical was ever found in our Waimea-Kekaha water system, and there has been no detection since 2005."
Craddick was responding to a recent community meeting during which more than 300 people heard about the effects of atrazine.
According to Honolulu-based attorney Gerard Jervis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found atrazine in water samples taken at Waimea Canyon Middle School in 2011.
Craddick said the chemical could have traveled through the air.
"If it’s getting in the dust and blowing around in the wind, that may be an even bigger concern," he said. "We test at our source."
Atrazine is banned in Europe because of groundwater contamination risks. Studies suggest it is associated with a number of serious health problems, including birth defects, cancer and reproductive problems.
Craddick said atrazine was used by the sugar industry and was occasionally detected in some of Kauai’s water sources.
Carl Arume of the Kauai water department said that since the sugar cane industry came to a halt, so too did the use of atrazine.
"We really haven’t seen it for over a decade or so," he said.