Sugar Cane Burning in Hawaii

Posted on Apr 1, 2015 in Ola Lokahi

Kamaaina who have grown up in Hawaii, especially those in rural Oahu and the neighbor islands, know that commercial sugar plantations and cane burning have been a part of our island culture since the 1840s.

Suburban and urban growth in Hawaii have put residential developments in close proximity to sugar cane fields. This has resulted in concerns about the health effects from the smoke and ash from cane burning from those who live in the surrounding areas.

Some have advocated that agricultural burning be banned in Hawaii. Others see cane burning as an inconvenient trade-off for the opportunity to live in wide-open, undeveloped green spaces. The role of the Clean Air Branch of the Hawaii State Department of Health is not to favor one side over the other, but to provide facts and science that bring the community together to develop workable solutions.

The Clean Air Branch monitors air quality in Hawaii, and this includes regulatory oversight of sugar cane operations that affect air quality. The Clean Branch’s goal is to ensure companies comply with all applicable laws, including the use of “no-burn” periods when weather or other conditions are not ideal, as well as reviewing and approving air and agricultural burning permits.

The Clean Air Branch evaluates and enforces state and federal air standards, conducts inspections and investigations on reported incidents related to outdoor air quality to minimize air pollution.

The Department of Health is continually accepting feedback from the community. On Maui, for example, the Clean Air Branch is arranging a meeting with representatives from the community to hear their concerns regarding cane burning. Residents concerned about air quality relating to cane burning, may contact our Maui office at 984-8234, our Honolulu office at 586-4200, or email us at [email protected].