Several residents had complained last year about the cloud of dust that occasionally blanketed Central Maui.

The Hawaii Department of Health has fined Mahi Pono $9,600 for failing to control dust multiple days last year.

Maui County locator map

After investigating numerous complaints from residents, the health department found that the farming company, which owns 41,000 acres of Alexander & Baldwin’s former sugarcane fields, violated clean air laws on four separate days in August and December, according to a news release Wednesday.

The view from lower Kula as dust erupts from central Maui. (Courtesy: Gerry Ross/2022)

Investigators found that wind and, in one instance, farming operations “caused or permitted visible fugitive dust to become airborne without taking reasonable precautions.” 

Across the U.S., governments ban and regulate what’s known as “fugitive dust,” which are particles lifted into the air from activities like tilling soil, driving over unpaved roads or heavy construction.

The dust pollutes the air, waterways and oceans and has also been linked to a number of respiratory diseases, including aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

In a statement late Wednesday, Mahi Pono said that dust is one of the “persistent challenges inherent in large-scale farming.” The company said it’s working on improving its dust-control protocols to better comply with state law.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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