Dairy farm poses environmental risks

I was born before statehood. We lived in Kaumakani when I finished high school. As many do, I went away to college, married a Mainlander and enjoyed a career as both a nurse and an attorney. Six years ago, I came home. This area is very special. Reading about the proposed Hawaii Farms Dairy to operate in the Mahaulepu Valley prompted some research. I wondered how this beautiful area might be impacted.

The proposed dairy is to implement a New Zealand model. In researching the New Zealand experience, their Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment released findings that show “water quality will continue to plummet, as it has since 1996, the beginning of the dairy boom,” known as the “White Gold Rush.” New Zealand began its dairy farm conversions to a plan similar to the one proposed for Kauai without prior environmental studies. New Zealand’s detrimental environmental impact and problems with botulism and other bacteria prompted the adoption of a specific accord.

Concentrated dairy farms like the one proposed for the Mahaulepu area, risk making “fishing and swimming a thing of the past” if not restricted from major waterways. New Zealand has formed the Dairy Environment Leadership Group, which recently adopted a “Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord” to prohibit dairy farming near significant waterways and wetlands.

Shouldn’t the state and Kauai determine the environmental impact here and thus feasibility of the dairy planned for Mahaulepu before we experience contamination or other problems from noxious gasses? Shouldn’t we take advantage of what New Zealand has learned in the last 20 years and adopt a similar accord? A very real concern is the density of cattle planned. 1,800 cattle by 2015, and 800 to start. Either number is less than 1 acre per cow. In New Zealand, they follow 1.3 acres per dairy cow.

A self-sustaining dairy is a real asset. However, do we need 1,800 cows on just 582 acres? Three hundred dairy cows produce 1,800 gallons of milk/day or 12,500 gallons/week.

Mahaulepu and its shoreline are near pristine areas. If the New Zealanders have learned that they can’t put their dairy farms near major waterways, why are we doing it without any environmental study?

The waste output of the proposed dairy cows is 80 pounds of manure daily and six gallons of urine daily. 1,800 cattle will produce at least 104,000 pounds of manure/day. Management at Ulupono has admitted that because of the 10 acres of concrete they intend to pour for drains, roadways and other structures (ponds, barns, sheds, etc.), the cows will have only 430 of the 582 acres to graze on.

In a week, there will be 1,694 pounds of bacteria and parasite laden manure/acre and 70,000-plus gallons of urine/acre. Even if their waste is captured in part in holding ponds, the volume is staggering. The soil of Mahaulepu is largely clay. Drainage will be an issue and the risk of running right to the Mahaulepu and the Poipu shores great. Should the operation proposed be modified? Shouldn’t we ask that Hawaii Dairy Farms to be more vigilant stewards of our land and avoid the detrimental impact experienced in New Zealand?

• Bridget Hammerquist is a resident of Koloa

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