Waste discharge from Big Island dairy farm concerns locals

HILO — The latest in a string of wastewater discharges from a Big Island dairy farm has residents wondering how it will handle its planned closure next year.

A Monday discharge from Big Island Dairy was just one of several such spills and discharges that have occurred at the farm this year.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Thursday that the most recent discharge released nearly 600,000 gallons of wastewater into Kaohaoha Gulch near the town of Ookala.

Residents have long complained about releases of manure-laden water from the dairy into the nearby gulches that run through or next to the community.

Dairy management did not respond to an email or phone calls from the newspaper.

State Department of Health spokeswoman Anna Koethe told the newspaper that dairy management said pumps were used to drain the wastewater lagoons in order to reduce the risk of effluent overflowing from the earthen lagoons.

Ookala resident Charlene Nishida says the ongoing spills are alarming and she’s concerned the farm can’t operate or end its business without discharging more wastewater into the environment.

It’s “alarming and shocking they have not been forced to shut down at this point. It’s government at its worst,” Nishida said.

The Department of Health issued the dairy fines of $91,000 on Dec. 4 for three separate spills between April and May. The department fined the dairy $25,000 in May 2017 for unlawful discharge of wastewater.

Big Island Dairy’s owners confirmed last month that they will discontinue dairy and milk processing operations at the Ookala facility.

Koethe says the dairy’s inability to properly manage wastewater is a major reason for its pending closure.

“Though the dairy is taking actions to reduce and eliminate its herd by early summer, there remains substantial risk of additional discharges during periods of prolonged wet weather,” Koethe said.

The citizens group Kupale Ookala and the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit in 2017 alleging violations by the dairy of the federal Clean Water Act.

Resident Genard Frazier says he wasn’t surprised by the news of another discharge but was upset because he believes the farm is using rainfall and storms as an excuse to continue dumping their effluent.

  1. harry oyama December 29, 2018 5:18 am Reply

    Just like your corrupt and incompetent political “leaders” these diary operators live in a polluted cesspool environment they create while benefiting at your expense with little or no reprecussions for their evil deeds.

    Being fined is just part of business, there should be jail time for offenses the same as politicians are caught with campaign money abuses.

  2. Uncleaina December 29, 2018 9:07 am Reply

    Oh wow, let’s build a dairy on Kauai too!! Let’s see what millions of gallons on effluent looks like in our ocean! Only anti-agriculture people wouldn’t want to have this happening right here! What could possibly go wrong? Our plan is foolproof!

  3. Steve December 29, 2018 3:13 pm Reply

    This should be reqired reading for anyone who supports the building of the 2,000 cow dairy in Mahaulepu. And if you believe Ulupono will reinvent the wheel here with their ‘New Zealand model’ please google ‘New Zealand dairies’ and see what pops up. Nothing wrong with dairying, nothing wrong with ag—but an industrial dairy does not= small and sustainable. It equals what happened at Ookala.

    1. golde December 30, 2018 3:00 pm Reply

      Steve, you are right about the NZ model. I go to NZ every yr. for 3 months to fish for trout. NZ IS NOT the clean, green, pure they portray themselves to be. Their dairy practices are destroying their streams and rivers. We have experienced it first hand. They put too many cows on too little ground, then scatter every paddock with fertilizers on a constant basis. The nitrates are destroying the waterways, killing the aquatic bugs, building up silt, and clogging the once clean streams with weeds and polluting them. Not to mention the 1080 poison (deemed by the WHO as a weapon of mass destruction, and banned around the world, except for Australia) that is being dropped by helicopters all over the bush and waterways.The greatest propaganda ever spewed, is by the NZ government…they have destroyed their country with poisons. You won’t hear about it in the news, because there is a media blackout in NZ. If you want to know the real truth about NZ, just look at the numerous FB pages that are anti-1080. I have experienced the demise of the once world class trout streams in NZ, all from greed and poison. The world needs to know what is happening there.I personally have friends there who have been subjected to harassment by the NZ gov. because of their stand against the poisons used. NZ IS NO model for dairy practices.

  4. golde December 29, 2018 3:25 pm Reply

    It is a total lack of enforcement by our local agencies and our elected officials. They continue to let the Big Island Dairy break the law, polluting our streams, our ocean, the town of O’okala, and surrounding areas, and our air quality. The stink of all the cow manure and chemicals used to wash down the facility, flows thru our gulches. We have to close our windows…you can taste it. They were aerial spraying it. The BID are idiots and don’t know what they are doing. They know how to run their CAFOs in arid Idaho, on dry level ground…but have no idea how to manage one on the slopes of Mauna Kea. The fines should be used to hire more people to enforce the laws (currently the DOH has only 5 people in ALL of the state of Hawaii in this department, Clean Water division).It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that effluent from a CAFO operation with over 3000 animals is going to run downhill. No more “golly gee, it sure rains a lot here”..shut them down NOW.Our elected officials need to ACT NOW.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.