Groups Put HI Dairy on Legal Notice

Press release
May 04, 2017
By Press release
May 4, 2017, Ookala, HI – Two community groups in Hawaii – Kupale Ookala and the Center for Food Safety – plan to sue a dairy operation on Hawaii's Big Island for endangering local waterways with manure.

In their notice, the groups claim that the dairy manure management and storage practices are "improper" and have caused, and continue to cause, discharges of liquid and solid manure into streams flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

"The residents of Ookala were disappointed that the state Department of Health and Department of Agriculture didn't take action in 2014 when reports from an investigation clearly showed wrongdoing," said Charlene Nishida, member of the community group Kupale Ookala. "Our community is standing strong and we want to be in the driver's seat so we can hold this polluter accountable and protect our community."

The dairy farm in question milks nearly 2,000 cows on 2,500 acres uphill from Ookala, northwest of Hilo, HI. All of its animal waste is to be stored and used onsite, including storage in manure lagoons and sprayed as liquid fertilizer on its crop fields. According to the environmental groups, residents of Ookala have observed the dairy spraying liquid manure on crop fields during high wind days, or immediately before or during rainfall. They also allege the local community has witnessed brown murky water smelling of animal feces flowing from the dairy into the community's waterways and, ultimately, into the Pacific Ocean.

In 2014, inspectors from the Hawaii Department of Health confirmed manure runoff from the dairy had discharged into local streams, but no fines were issued. In a December 2016 inspection report, the department noted that the dairy's lagoon systems were poorly maintained and found there was "a high potential" of discharge. Any unpermitted discharge from the operation would violate state and federal water pollution laws.

The community groups intend to take the dairy to court after the 60-day notice period required by the Clean Water Act.

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