Ookala residents say runoff from dairy is contaminating streams, community
HILO, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Another community is up in arms over an island dairy farm, but this time it's on Hawaii Island and not Kauai.
Big Island Dairy L.L.C. houses about 1,800 cows on 2,300 acres of property near Ookala. For years, residents there have complained about the smells.
But now they're worried runoff from the dairy's manure ponds, as well as wastewater used to irrigate the dairy's fields, getting into nearby streams and gulches.
"We are in a crisis. How many years have we been struggling with this?" asked Big Island Council Chair Valerie Poindexter. "(Residents) have lived with this horrible smell in their homes for many years."
Residents say nearby streams sometimes turn brown and smell of sewage even when there's been no heavy rains. Some believe the brown water has polluted at least one popular fishing spot.
One woman says her aunt, who lives next to one of the streams, got sick after a recent bout of heavy rain.
"She's been to the emergency room three times already, for the same bacteria that she's fighting," said April Weber of Ookala.
The Big Island Dairy would not comment for this story, but in a community meeting two weeks ago, gave residents this advice:
"Don't ever go into the gulches. You have populations of pigs there. You have risk for flash floods," said Brad Duff, the dairy's general manager.
Back in 2014, state Health Department inspectors found that runoff from the dairy did get into some streams, but no fines were ever issued.
But in a report on inspections conducted last year, the department said it found "no definitive evidence that Big Island Dairy discharged waste water from its lagoon system."
The Health Department says it's still investigating.
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