POSTED: 5 FEBRUARY 2008 -  5:30pm HST

Did a Monsanto container of pesticide hit bridge?

image above: Damaged panel covering utility lines on Kaumualii Highway Bridge over Hanapepe River
Photo by Juan Wilson.

by Juan Wilson on 5 February 2008

The story below in the Garden Island Newstells part of the story. As a resident of Hanapepe Valley I can tell you a few more details of the events of the night of February 4th 2008..

My wife, Linda Pascatore, myself and a house guest were told to evacuate the from the valley at about 6:00pm. We drove our cars out of the valley, past the Monsanto headquarters offices on Awawa Road. At that time the river water was up to the arches of the 1911 one lane bridge carrying Hanapepe Road. The county had closed the bridge.

We were forced to go around Moi Road and go over the Kaumualii Highway two lane bridge. About that time the container must have been approaching the 1911 bridge.

We drove up to Eleele to wait out the imminent danger at Grinds Cafe. About this time the 40 foot shipping container came down the Hanapepe River. We ate at Grinds and came back down to check the flooding. We stopped in Old Hanapepe Town to speak to friends Rick and Anna Raimondi. They live against the levee near the pedestrian Swinging Bridge. They told us that a Matson container from up river had just passed and had struck the swinging foot bridge that is normally about fifteen feet above the water.

We headed to the 1911 one-lane bridge to see the height of the river.  We were told the shipping container had struck the bridge and worked its way under one of the arches. We headed to the Kaumualii Bridge and were told that the container had hit the bridge and broken up on one of the bridge supports and that the bridge would likely be closed.

We got over the highway bridge and headed around to Awawa Road to go up the valley towards home before the highway was to be closed. A crowd of our neighbors was gathered at the beginning of Awawa Road where Monsanto's Hanapepe valley headquarters building (the Seto building) is located.

The neighbor's reports were that the container had come from further upriver, at the Monsanto's Dekalb facility on the other bank. They had been told by county workers that there were three containers that may come down the valley. The fear was that if more containers came down the river they might block the flow of water under the bridges and cause a topping of the levee.

Many people at the bridge reported that the container was filled with chemicals and pesticides.  They said that noxious fumes that filled the area around the Kaumualii Bridge when the container broke up.

We all huddled in the dark. The Kali family and their friends broke out ukes and guitars and someone opened a cooler of beer. Things were going to be okay. We waited a while and no more containers floated down the river as the water subsided.

The next day we heard more eye witness accounts of toxics being released.  One neighbor familiar with glyphosate (Roundup) said it was another pesticide but could not identify it. Another neighbor claimed to have seen packaging of items in the container that had warnings symbols on them.

image above: Offices of Monsanto Corporation on Awawa Road in Hanapepe Valley
Photo by Juan Wilson.

It seems plausible that Monsanto had toxic chemicals packaged and stored in
containers on their leased Dekalb acreage. If this is the case, it poses a real hazard to our community and the environment.

Besides the possibility of damaging the bridges that are the lifeline in our community, these forty foot containers could be bio-hazard bombs that poison the river, its embankments, and the ocean beyond. As of today, no one knows where that container is.

Hanapepe Bay is an area where fish breed and commercial fishing is done. Is a container of pesticide now dissolving into our waters?  Will toxins migrate to the nearby Salt Pond Beach Park?

Monsanto could answer some questions.

1) Are you missing a container?

2) What was in it?

3) What is in the other containers?

4) Can you secure them so flood water can't reach them?

I suggest that Monsanto should not be allowed to store quantities of poisonous chemicals in Matson containers that are simply left on the ground in a flood plain. Such material should not be used at all, but certainly it should not be stored where it could be washed into the river by a day or two of rain, and spread poison on its way to the ocean. Monsanto should be held liable for such things.



Floods take cars, slam bridges
by Rachel Gehrlein on 5 February 2008 in The Garden Island

A flash flood watch remained in effect yesterday until late afternoon for all the Hawaiian islands as an area of low pressure in the upper atmosphere created unstable and wet weather conditions for the state.

Flooding, mudslides, high stream levels and road closures were reported on Kaua‘i yesterday. Kaua‘i Civil Defense Administrator Mark Marshall surveyed the North Shore in the morning to assess the damage from the rain and flooding. Marshall reported two cars being swept into Wainiha Stream and the roof of a shed floating downstream.

On Sunday evening, a 40-foot Matson container was reported floating down the Hanapepe River on the Westside. The container hit the county-owned Hanapepe Bridge, made its way under the bridge and struck the state-owned Hanapepe Bridge.

The container continued to float down the Hanapepe River and made its way out to sea.

Deputy County Engineer Ed Renaud said the extent of the damage to the county-owned bridge cannot be assessed until the water level in the Hanapepe River returns to normal.

Until then, the bridge will remain closed.

“We checked two of the three bays on the bridge,” Renaud said in a statement. “They appear to be slightly damaged, but we’re not sure if it was caused by the container hitting it or another large object.”

Renaud said a structural engineer will be brought in to assess the damage to the bridge.

State Department of Transportation officials checked the state-owned Hanapepe Bridge for damage yesterday.

“(The container) grazed the bridge, but didn’t cause any structural damage,” Scott Ishikawa, spokesman for the DOT, said.

Ishikawa said there was a small mudslide near Wainiha yesterday, but it didn’t cause major damages or road closures.

Crews were out and about yesterday cleaning up “little messes,” Ishikawa said.

The Hanelei Bridge was closed for seven hours Sunday evening due to flooding. Once open, at around 9:30 p.m., the Kaua‘i Police Department alternated traffic flow and escorted vehicles over the bridge to ensure a safe passage for motorists.

The Wainiha Bridge was closed for about an hour on Sunday after flooding ruptured a water main under the bridge. Residents from Wainiha to Ha‘ena experienced low water pressure or no water at all until Department of Water crews could make repairs yesterday afternoon.

According to officials, repair work was hampered due to high stream levels and flooding.

Faith Shiramizu, spokesperson for the Department of Water, said the repairs were completed as of yesterday evening.

Shiramizu said the department is under the assumption that debris struck the water main as the river rose, causing the main to break.

According to the National Weather Service, the area of low pressure will fade over the state by midweek, with the tradewinds dropping to below normal levels of 10 to15 mph.

To report any damage from the heavy rain and flooding, call the Kaua‘i Civil Defense Agency at 241-1800.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a team on Kaua‘i to inspect the Hanapepe and Waimea levees.


see also:
Island Breath: Support for Spray Ban
Island Breath: Hanapepe Levee Problems 12/5/07
Island Breath: TGI #18 - The End of Pesticides
Island Breath: Waimea Canyon School Poisoning 7/10/07