Pesticide sends 8 to hospital
A Waiau woman is under investigation for allegedly dumping the chemicals in the street
Police have turned over to state officials an investigation of a Waiau woman who allegedly disposed of about a half-gallon of pesticide, sending eight adults and school children to the hospital yesterday.
Police said they initiated two cases against the woman -- one for illegally contaminating water and another for unlawful disposal of a pesticide -- and turned them over to the Attorney General's Office and the departments of Agriculture and Health.
Police and fire officials said the 59-year-old dumped a bottle containing malathion down her Hoomahilu Street driveway before 9:45 a.m. The pesticide then apparently ran down into the street and into a nearby storm drain.
"She said she had a Clorox bottle of it and was just trying to get rid of it," said Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Kenison Tejada. "So it ran down into the storm drain and dried up and started to smell.
"Just smelling it won't make you sick, but prolonged exposure to it will."
Some students on the mauka side of Waiau Elementary School nearest the storm drain began complaining about watery eyes and nausea, and before long three classrooms of about 70 children ranging from preschool to the sixth grade were evacuated into the library.
"The children closest to the smell were moved. The rest we kept on lock down wherever they were at the time on campus," said Waiau Principal Judy Elliot. "One or two of the children did throw up; that was the extent of that."
Six children and two faculty members were treated by paramedics and transported to area hospitals for further observation. Elliot said the rest of the school waited for the all-clear from the Fire Department before resuming classes about 11 a.m.
Tejada said hazardous-waste crews used a combination of water and Simple Green cleaner to dilute the malathion smell to acceptable levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control, malathion is used to kill insects, including fleas and ticks on pets and head lice on people. Exposure to high amounts of malathion in the air, water or food may cause difficulty breathing, chest tightness, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, watery eyes and other symptoms.
Elliot said she hopes to use yesterday's crisis as a way to teach children about making the right choices.
"It's really interesting because one of our core values here is we're committed to taking care of the world around us," she said. "This is an example of what can happen if someone is not considering how they can impact those around them.
"It was an experience that could have been avoided."