LIHUE — Researchers from Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future School of Public Health voiced concerns about the dairy aimed at Kauai’s Mahaulepu Valley in a letter released last week.
After a request by Bridget Hammerquist, president of Friends of Mahaulepu, the researchers reviewed Hawaii Dairy Farms’ final environmental impact statement (FEIS) and responded with a 23-page opinion on the plan.
Disease transmission, air pollution and contaminated ground and surface water were some of the concerns cited in the letter, sent to the State of Hawaii Department of Health and Office of Environmental Quality Control.
Representatives from Hawaii Dairy Farms didn’t address questions regarding the importance of the opinion to their project, but said in a statement to TGI: “Ulupono Initiative’s proposed vision to increase our state’s local milk supply with an economically feasible, pasture-based dairy on Kauai is rooted in our mission to promote Hawaii’s self-sufficiency and sustainability through local food production. We are committed to being a responsible community partner.”
Researchers also consolidated their concerns in a statement: “The primary human health concerns include: risk of infections resulting from transmission of harmful microorganisms from animal operations to nearby residents, respiratory effects from increased exposure to air pollution from animal operations, and multiple negative health impacts due to exposure to ground and/or surface waters that can be contaminated by manure from animal operations.”
Flies and contaminated water carrying risks for infection were highlighted as possible impacts, as well as exposure to pathogens resistant to human antibiotics as a result of animal vaccinations.
“A growing body of evidence provides support that antibiotic-resistant pathogens are found on animal operations that administer antibiotics for non-therapeutic purposes and are also found in the environment in and around production facilities, 10 specifically in manure,” the letter stated.
Air emissions of concern to researchers include particulates, volatile organic compounds, and gases such as nitrous oxide, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia.
The increase in livestock in the area threw up red flags for the researchers in relation to ground and surface water contamination as well.
“We have concerns regarding some inconsistencies in the feed and waste management plans described in the FEIS,” researchers wrote.
While HDF representatives couldn’t be reached for comment, Hammerquist said “it is exciting and validating” to receive the assessment.
“The data and details are compiled from a prolonged study of industrial animal food operations across the United States,” she said.
“This letter not only supports our efforts, but also brings to light inconsistencies and major shortcomings in HDF’s plan.”