Results of EPA/Dept of Health Meeting

We met with the EPA and Hawaii Dept. of Health.

Good news first. Your voices were heard and not only did the EPA and DOH meet with us, they said they were going to make changes to the burn permit. (We asked them not to issue a burn permit at all but that was rejected.)

Here are the terms that we were led to believe may be in the permit:

1. Clearer, more enforceable no-burn days based on meteorological conditions and Vog – NOT on the bogus system used now (are 4 peaks obscured when Blake Shiigi goes out and looks)

2. Fewer exemptions that fields have from the conditions on the face of the permit. The permit starts out saying no burns prior to 9am, no visible smoke shall enter buildings or roadways. Then it has 2 pages of fine print exempting field after field.

3. No burns before 8 or 9am

4. Designation of field #s in burn announcements so that the community can keep HC&S honest and be the watchdogs since DOH is inadequately staffed (I’ll just leave that word “inadequately” to cover a lot)

5. Some attempt to get a quicker feedback loop so that HC&S does not light a second fire after the first one drops smoke on our homes, schools and businesses. At this time, we complain, HC&S ignores us and lights another fire and Blake Shiigi sends a report to Oahu by barge or something and a week later they go, “Oh gee I guess we should have told HC&S not to light another fire that day”

Now here’s the bad news:

Last year (2012) HC&S was cited ONLY ONE TIME – and that was for burning a field not covered in that year’s permit. No citations for smothering Ma’alaea in smoke, No citations on the days Kihei Elementary, Pukalani Elementary and the Waldorf school called in complaints, no citations for all the times we were smothered. I find that impossible to believe.

Now for you folks who have had run-ins with Blake. I have to say other than hiding from me and refusing to reply to me, he has been civil even in the face of me contradicting him and attempting to pin him down to an answer. But then again, I am pretty impervious to people trying to shut me up 🙂

But one person attending the meeting was irate with him and (in front of his bosses) talked about how he disrespects and belittles people who complain about smoke and how he denies there is smoke when it is right there in front of him.

I believe when people meet with us in person, they are owed civility and yes, I felt bad for Blake having to listen to this even though it was true. At the same time, it WAS something that needed to be said.

I came away thinking that there would not be any public meetings held by Dept of Health because they are well aware of the anger in our community about their abdication of their role as the protector of public health. Frankly they are scared of facing that anger…and I don’t blame them. Hopefully (but I’m not holding my breath) they will understand that they need to step up and do their job in order to diffuse that anger.

Cane burning is slated to begin Mid-March. At that time we’ll swing our campaign into high gear, distributing more bumper stickers and getting information cards out to affected residents so they know where to complain.

Together we can clear the smoke!