WHT — Big Island Dairy owners confirmed Tuesday that the company will discontinue dairy and milk processing operations at the Ookala facility for financial reasons.
“The process of winding up business operations will take several months to complete, during which time the milk processing will end, and cows will be removed from active milking,” owners Derek Whitesides and Steve Whitesides said in an emailed statement. “This was a difficult decision for Big Island Dairy, but it has reached a point that it lacks the additional resources needed to continue the operation under current economic and regulatory conditions.
“Big Island Dairy believes there is value in the dairy market in Hawaii, and that the residents of Hawaii are better off with a local, sustainable food supply that includes milk and diary products. To that end, it is searching for potential successors to take over business operations.”
The dairy is located on land leased from the state.
Residents of Ookala have complained for several years about releases of manure-laden water into nearby gulches that run through or next to the community.
A discharge in May released nearly 2.3 million gallons of rain and wastewater during a period of three days, and in August, heavy rain from Hurricane Lane caused a wastewater pond at the dairy to overflow, sending more untreated effluent into a nearby gulch.
A lawsuit alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act was filed in 2017 in U.S. District Court in Honolulu.
In a notice of violation and order issued in April 2017, the Clean Water Branch ordered corrective actions that included “ceasing the discharge of pollutants to state waters.”
The DOH fined the dairy $25,000 in May 2017 for unlawful discharge of wastewater.