KA'U RESIDENTS SHARE ILL EFFECTS OF POLLUTANT WITH GOV'T TASK FORCE
BY CHELSEA JENSEN
WEST HAWAII TODAY
Vog, volcanic smog, sulfur dioxide — no matter what you call it — Kilauea's emissions are impacting Hawaii Island in a multitude of ways, Ka'u residents said Thursday.
"If you're going to live in Ka'u, you can't do it the way it was done before. You either have the resources to leave or you live with it," said Lani Petri, manager of Kapapala Ranch. "If we had the resources, we'd probably move, but we don't."
At the ranch, Petri said the vog is quickly — in some cases in just two years — deteriorating standard steel barbed wire fencing that used to last upward of 25 years. Replacing the ranch's 300 miles of fencing with fiberglass composite could cost per mile up to $15,000 — nearly 15 times the cost of steel.
The sulfur dioxide also destroys any exposed metal, from galvanized piping to tire rims on trucks, she said.
"The metal loss in incredible," Petri said. "We have to hire a truck to get cattle moved anymore because of the liability of having something on the highway without knowing how safe it is."
But, the vog does have a plus side, too, she said. Non-native plants, such as Christmas berry and eucalyptus, are struggling to survive in the high-acidity.
"The non-native plants are having a hard time. They can't survive," she said. "The eucalyptus has died too, but unfortunately it too is a crop."
Petri was just one of about a dozen residents who attended the information-gathering meeting held at the Pahala Community Center. The meeting had yet to conclude as of press time on Wednesday.
Hawaii County Civil Defense through its Interagency Vog Task Force collected a good amount of public input on vog's impact to Hawaii Island. The information gathered during the meeting will be taken back to the task force for review.
In attendance were various state and county legislators, state and county Civil Defense officials, a Hawaii Fire Department official, and representatives from Ka'u Hospital, the state departments of Health, Agriculture, Land and Natural Resources and Transportation.
The volunteer task force, established in 2011 by Act 229, is tasked with reviewing the effects and impact of vog on human health, school children, agriculture, farm and ranch animals, public infrastructure and the visitor industry. It then makes recommendations to the state Legislature.
Ron Ebert, who at least once daily keeps tabs on vog and sulfur dioxide levels in Pahala and Ocean View, requested the task force look into adding an air monitoring station at Wood Valley.
"Intuitively, to me, through my observations of the visible part of the vog, it seems like a lot of it settles in Wood Valley," he said.
Ebert also asked the task force to look into alternative means for informing area residents, including those who don't have a cellphone, about hazardous sulfur dioxide levels in the area.
"We need a means for alerting the people in the area that (vog) levels are high," he said. "I know there are people that don't have cellphones down here and we have to be concerned about them, too."
For Jessie Marques, Hawaii Island Rural Health Association president, health of residents, plants and animals is important as the task force moves forward. She hopes the group will take advantage of ongoing University of Hawaii studies.
"I want all the different resources and studies to get to the task force so they are aware of all that is going on," she said. "Then, the task force can draw upon those sources to make decisions and disseminate the information."