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Not so certain dairy is safe

Hawaii Dairy Farms hosts its open house today at 7 p.m. at Koloa School cafeteria to review its Environmental Impact Statement. In response to Kyle Datta’s guest commentary last Sunday, “Dairy is Safe for the Environment And We Will Prove It,” we are sure he won’t mind adding a few facts to the mix. Mr. Datta, project manager of the proposed industrial dairy, complained that, “Unfortunately, there is a great deal of inaccurate information about Hawaii Dairy Farms’ plans.” 

That is not the case.

Mr. Datta professes a commitment to transparency and a desire to do an EIS to prove the absence of environmental harm to Mahaulepu. Isn’t it worth noting that HDF hired Group 70 International, Inc. to conduct its EIS, the very same company that developed HDF’s Waste Management Plan and prepared its architectural blueprints for all HDF’s proposed dairy structures? Is the public to believe that Group 70 is able to conduct an EIS without conflict of interest? If HDF does want to ensure that everything gets looked at honestly and rigorously, wouldn’t it be better to hire an environmental engineering firm specializing in Environmental Impact Studies. We urge everyone to write to the state Board of Health, HDF and Group 70 by the Feb. 23 deadline to express their opinions or concerns about HDF’s proposed industrial dairy in so sensitive a location as Mahaulepu.

Friends of Mahaulepu is not, and has never been, opposed to a reasonably sized dairy in a safe location. HDF’s industrial dairy proposal is neither. When HDF plans to create a large “zero discharge” dairy for the first time in Hawaii, why locate an experiment like this in a beautiful, treasured place, which has deep roots in Hawaiian culture, and has a fragile environment and ecosystem? Why does HDF insist on calling its dairy “grass fed” when their management plan calls for supplementing each cow’s feed with at least 26 pounds of grain daily (HDF plan, page 90)?

Mr. Datta, why did HDF exclude the results of the “Custom Soil Resource Study” done by the Natural Resource Conservation Service when it filed its current Waste Management Plan with the state on July 23, 2014? The study, released June 5, 2014, focused on the proposed dairy site and concluded that HDF’s plan for a land application of the cow waste would be problematic at Mahaulepu, as more than 50 percent of the proposed farm soil is at high or very high risk of runoff due to its high clay content. Instead, HDF has never retracted their printed claim of “NRCS permit-completed.” As anyone can verify, the NRCS does not issue permits for any operation in Hawaii.  

Mr. Datta stated that HDF “independently modified” the design of the effluent ponds after having “received additional rainfall data” and as a result of a “collaborative effort with community members and the DOH,” but he neglects to mention that HDF submitted their initial plan for the ponds without adequate soil analysis and without accurate storm event and rainfall readings. Why didn’t HDF check with Grove Farm (their landlord), who has recorded and reported to the state all rainfall readings from the Mahaulepu rain gauge for the past 50 years? Grove Farm sends its readings to the state hydrologist and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, from whom Datta claims HDF eventually got their information. With a simple phone call to NOAA, FOM obtained rainfall/storm event records the same day. Those records were then shared with Sina Pruder at DOH. Subsequently, Ms. Pruder informed FOM that HDF had been asked to increase the size of their effluent ponds. In the event of a storm, or extended rainfall event (remember 30-plus days in 2006?), a serious risk of overflow/discharge exists with ponds already full of effluent and manure residue. 

Speaking of being informed, as early as 2003 the American Public Health Association called for a nationwide moratorium on large animal operations such as the dairy proposed for Mahaulepu — citing overwhelming scientific evidence of public health concerns. Their call was repeated by the Canadian Medical Association, the Michigan State Medical Society and numerous local boards of health across the land.

Kauai has a cherished history of small, sustainable businesses. It should be no different with agriculture. Sustainable, environmentally sound, akamai — these are the hallmarks to which we aspire, whether it be in energy, tourism, development or ag. FOM members have donated their time, training and expertise to study HDF’s proposal and looks forward to a complete and honest evaluation of Mahaulepu as a suitable location for the proposed industrial dairy.

We are simply asking that a much smaller sustainable dairy be located elsewhere on land that cannot be easily contaminated, is not culturally significant, is away from drinking water, population centers, our vibrant visitor industry, and won’t damage the beauty and tranquility of our local landscape.

Steve Lauryn and Bridget Hammerquist are resident of Koloa.

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