New & Noteworthy: Irradiator Move in the Works; The Cost of Killing Coqui

posted in: November 2010 | 0

An Irradiator in Kunia? The Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting is considering an application from Pa`ina Hawai`i to build a food irradiator in Kunia, two and a half miles south of Wahiawa, on land once a part of the Del Monte pineapple plantation.

The department’s director is to issue a decision by November 17.

Pa`ina Hawai`i had planned originally to build the facility on state land lying between an active runway at Honolulu International Airport and the coast. Five years after submitting the initial application for that site to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Pa`ina owner Michael Kohn set his sights on property further inland, thus avoiding a need to address concerns over tsunamis, high water tables, airport accidents, and the like.At a hearing on the application held by the DPP on October 12, Kohn attempted to compare the benefits of the irradiator he is planning to use with the benefits to the public from the use of radiation by hospitals and clinics. “Don’t be fooled by environmental objectors who attempt to raise false concerns,” he said. “Ask your friends and families whose lives have been saved by the use of nuclear materials.”

What Kohn did not mention, however, is that the irradiator in his facility will have more than a million curies of Cobalt-60 as its radioactive source, whereas nuclear equipment in hospitals typically has amounts of radioactive elements small enough so that the level of curies numbers in the single digits.

David Henkin, an attorney with Earthjustice who represents Concerned Citizens of Hawai`i, a group that has intervened in proceedings before the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, noted that the irradiator is not “about saving lives.” “The NRC took a look at whether this [facility] would have a positive impact, and it determined there would be no significant benefits” from its operation, he said.

If Pa`ina Hawai`i is to locate at the Kunia site, it will need to obtain a new license from the NRC. (Check the EH-Xtra column on our website for updates and details.)

Army Declares War on Coqui: The Big Island has pretty much given up on controlling coqui (Eleutherodactylus coqui) populations and residents have more or less resigned themselves to keeping the tiny animals at bay in their own back yards.

But, as the Army has proved, controlling coqui is possible – if you have a small enough infestation, and enough manpower, money, patience, and control over the terrain.

An infestation in Wahiawa, O`ahu had about 125 adult males at its peak and the total estimated population was about 2,000. Even so, eradicating them took the better part of six years and cost the Army $290,000.

Jane Beachy, with the Army’s natural resource program, and Rachel Neville, with the O`ahu Invasive Species Committee (OISC), described the eradication effort at Wahiawa and Schofield Barracks at the Hawai`i Conservation Conference last July.

The first coqui was heard in 2001. Ground zero was a backyard garden, adjoining Schofield Barracks. For the first two years, control efforts were limited to hand capture. When that proved ineffective, the Army and OISC began night sprays using a 16 percent solution of citric acid. Despite the control efforts, the population continued to grow, reaching its peak in 2004.

That year, the Army got serious: a seasonal spray crew was hired and “habitat modification” – including the bulldozing of infested areas – began.

In 2005, the number of calling males was roughly half the number of the previous year, and the frogs had been eradicated from 3.5 hectares.

A year later, clearing and night sprays were supplemented with daytime drenches. Just 29 calling males were heard at the peak of the season. On September 28, 2006, the last coqui was heard. Since then, ongoing monitoring and spraying of “hot spots” has continued, but no coqui have been heard in the area.

Beachy and Neville outlined some of the lessons learned. Eradication is possible, but it almost certainly requires altering habitat, a dedicated spray crew, large quantities of citric acid and an aggressive spray schedule. Also, access to all infested areas is required.

The spread and establishment of coqui is not inevitable, they said, and even where coqui populations have become naturalized, eradication is possible – “given adequate resources and staffing.”

Since the Wahiawa eradication ended, the OISC has collected coqui in nearly two dozen areas around the island. They continue to arrive, Neville said, because they have become so established on the Big Island, which ships nursery stock to O`ahu. Even when plants are sprayed with citric acid or given a hot water bath, some coqui survive. Coqui also hitchhike on unwashed equipment or other items that have not been treated.


Volume 21, Number 5 — November 2010


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