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Scientific reasons to oppose dairy plan

If the Hawaii Dairy Farms proposed dairy at Mahaulepu, South Shore, Kauai, were to become a reality, it would be catastrophic for the air, soils, waters and marine life of the area. 

As a marine biologist visiting coral reefs all around the world since 1970, I have sadly observed formerly wonderful reefs collapsing everywhere, in just my lifetime. They are dying from overfishing, pollution (sediments, pesticides, plastics, sewage containing nutrients, bacteria, viruses and biopharmaceuticals), bleaching, storms, military activities (especially, construction of bases, poisonous discharges during and after construction, and bombing practice) and rampant shore development.

I have studied Kauai reefs for the last six years. Unlike the corals at Anini, suffering from diseases, and at my gardening project on a degraded reef in Kapaa, the corals at Mahaulepu are still amazingly alive and well! Of particular joy to me, whenever I visit there, is swimming around a rare, massive “microatoll,” a colony of Porites as big around as an SUV, unblemished, only about 100 feet from shore. It is likely over 4,000 years old! Besides corals, fish, sea cucumbers, lobsters and octopus, and occasional monk seals and turtles, the Mahaulepu area even has resident sea urchins (missing at “my” Kapaa reef site), which are indicative of a balanced environment. Operation of the proposed dairy, just 0.6 mi up from the sea, would harm this very special marine environment. It is simply unacceptable.

Here are four interrelated scientific reasons to oppose the proposed dairy:

1. Pollution: The HDF EIS cites only a single publication from 1995, by M. Atkinson, to defend the increase in nutrient levels impacting the marine life below their dairy. That publication is both irrelevant and now obsolete. Atkinson’s report, “Coral Growth in high-nutrient, low-pH seawater, a case study of corals cultured at the Waikiki Aquarium” is about corals in tanks, not the ocean. Aquarium water at the Waikiki facility comes from a well-water source, so it has low pH, is high in inorganic nutrients, and is low in organic nutrients, unlike natural conditions. (In fact, Atkinson warned in an earlier 1994 report against “nutrient satiation” which leads to decalcification of coral skeletons.) In the decades since his 1995 report, ocean conditions have deteriorated drastically. Acidification, warming and numerous other stresses are compounding the now well-documented problems caused by sediments and nutrients, and corals are dying worldwide.

2. Climate change: Storms are increasing in intensity and frequency around the world. Extreme rainstorms erode soils, which carry nutrients, fertilizers, pesticides, biopharmaceuticals and other poisons to the sea. Heavy rains at Mahaulepu, with the proposed dairy, would bring down nutrient-rich manure and urine, harmful bacteria, viruses, growth hormones (such as rBGH, created by Monsanto, given to dairy cows to increase milk production), and antibiotics. (rBGH, is linked to human health problems including cancer and probably diabetes.) What would the effect be on seals, turtles, fish and corals living in the hormone — and antibiotic-polluted waters?

3. Shipping emissions: Environmentally-harmful global and local shipping emissions would be increased by the dairy operations. GMO feed (30 percent of the diet of their cattle), medicines, fertilizers and pesticides would need to be shipped continually to Kauai from the Continent, and then milk would be shipped from here to be processed in Oahu, then (maybe) shipped back!

4. Water quantity and quality: Water security is increasingly being characterized as one of the top global risks of the 21st century. Water is life! The water footprint of producing one gallon of milk is 12,000 gallons of water! Besides quantity, water quality is also an extremely important consideration: two of the county drinking-water wells are a scant 800 feet away from the dairy.

I moved to Kauai because I love water, and I love studying living corals. How dismayed I am, to observe more and more coral degradation around our beautiful island. Let’s clean up our water, not continue to pollute it. Let’s promote life in the streams, rivers and sea, not destroy it. Individual coral polyps are tiny and fragile, but together they may form colonies which are resilient. Like the polyps, those of us protecting waters at Mahaulepu are resilient together too. Let’ protect and preserve Mahaulepu!

Hey, I have an idea for a new bumpersticker: “We shall not be cowed!”

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Katherine Muzik, Ph.D., is a Kapaa resident.

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