Community Groups Condemn Latest Spill of Cow Manure
Residents of ʻOʻōkala are upset over the latest public report admitting spillage of approximately 300 gallons of cow manure from Big Island Dairy, an industrial dairy confining nearly 2,600 cows, uphill from the town of ʻOʻōkala, northwest of Hilo, at the base of Maunakea. The spilled cow manure has contaminated Alaialoa Gulch, the local stream running through the middle of the dairy, which continues through the town of ʻOʻōkala, before entering the coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean. The Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) issued an advisory informing the public to avoid contact with waters within the Alaialoa Gulch due to public health risks, anywhere from Big Island Dairy to the shoreline east of ʻOʻōkala.
“The Alaialoa Gulch runs right through the center of town where all of our residences are. The school kids are dropped off and picked up at the bridge that runs over the gulch,” said Charlene Nishida, local resident and member of Kupale ʻOʻōkala, the community group that sued Big Island Dairy last year under the Clean Water Act. “The continued contamination of the Alaialoa stream directly affects the entire community on a daily basis. The latest discharge only highlights the ongoing problems with Big Island Dairy and its lack of concern for the community, the stream, and ultimately, the ocean.”
This latest incident exemplifies the ongoing, flagrant disregard of public health and the environment by the industrial dairy. The groups’ lab analysis of water sampling data found alarming levels of bacteria in the gulches that run from Big Island Dairy’s operation, through ʻOʻōkala, and into the Pacific Ocean. Under the Clean Water Act, any discharge from Big Island Dairy is a violation of state and federal water pollution laws.
“Big Island Dairy’s operations continue to discharge manure to the local streams and the ocean in directviolation of the Clean Water Act,” said Charlie Tebbutt, lead attorney for the community groups. “We willcontinue to gather the facts to prove the problem and seek a ruling from the federal court to stop the illegal and dangerous discharges.”
Kupale ʻOʻōkala and the public interest organization Center for Food Safety took legal action only after the local community’s repeated efforts to curb Big Island Dairy’s pollution of local gulches with animal waste fell on deaf ears. Complaints and reports of contamination of local streams by feces and urine from the industrial dairy have been made since at least 2014. But it was only after the community groups provided Big Island Dairy with formal notice of their intent to sue that DOH issued a notice of violation and fined the Dairy $25,000, but only for a single incident of unlawful discharge of animal wastewater.
“ʻOʻōkala residents have tried in good faith to ask Big Island Dairy to be a responsible member of its community and abide by its legal duties,” said Sylvia Wu of Center for Food Safety and attorney for the community groups, “Yet instead of complying with the law, Big Island Dairy has continued its wanton mismanagement of the dairy’s animal wastes, endangering public health and the environment.”