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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 1, 2007

Infested Christmas trees kill Hawaii fundraisers

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A Southern Alligator Lizard from Oregon was another Christmas tree specimen found by quarantine officials.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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A shipment of 3,150 Christmas trees from Oregon failed inspection by state agriculture officials yesterday after inspectors found dead wasps and other non-native species in the cargo hold of a chartered 747.

The trees were meant to supply at least two school fundraisers and other local vendors and were flown to Hawai'i from Evergreen Agricultural Enterprises in Oregon.

Inspectors found wasps, hornets, other insects and soil in the cargo hold of the plane, said Janelle Saneishi, public information officer for the Hawai'i Department of Agriculture. Inspectors tried to save the batch of trees, but because they were all in one giant cargo hold, it was impossible to quarantine sections of trees.

The option of fumigating the plane was considered until pilots informed inspectors that the pesticides would corrode the plane's metal.

"Sadly, there were some schools with fundraising trees on that flight, but they had to send it back," Saneishi said. "This is the first time we've seen it come in like that (on a 747)."

Kailua Christian Academy and Waialua High and Intermediate School were supposed to benefit from the shipment but are now forced to refund their customers. The company said it will refund any money paid in advance for the trees.

Moana Pacatang, the parent community facilitator for Waialua, said the school is without 150 trees and will be forced to refund $5,000 worth of sales.

"It's frustrating because we were excited to get our trees, but we're at the mercy of other agencies, and they're just trying to do their jobs," Pacatang said. "All we can do is explain to our customers that our trees didn't pass inspection. We're short 2,500 trees on the island."

Reach Peter Boylan at pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.