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The lawsuit accuses the dairy of violating the federal Clean Water Act by dumping animal urine and feces in waters around Ookala, a community on the northeast coast of the Big Island. It claims residents have photographed “brown, clouded water” and “tests have also shown very high levels of E. coli and enterococcus,” another type of bacteria.
The plaintiffs claim Big Island Dairy has polluted the waters for five years, specifically the Alaialoa, Kaohaoha and Kaula gulches, which flow to the Pacific Ocean.
Big Island Dairy had no comment Wednesday.
The dairy is building a milk processing plant “outside the approved scope of its construction activities and in violation of its Stormwater Construction Permit,” the suit claims.
The suit also claims the dairy has violated the permit by failing to test nearby waters for bacteria weekly. It claims residents have seen workers spray wastewater on windy days, or around the time of rain, when runoff is more likely.
The plaintiffs allege manure overflows from open-air containment lagoons through a “spillway” to the Kaohaoha Gulch. There are other instances of manure seeping and leaking to the gulches, according to the suit.
The Alaialoa Gulch flows near a school bus stop where children often gather, the suit claims.
“Kupale Ookala knows of individuals who used to gather plants and herbs in and near the Ookala gulches for use in oral and topical medications … (and) used to swim, fish, and gather opihi and limu” in the nearby waters, but have stopped due to concerns of contamination, according to the suit.
Oregon-based Law Offices of Charles M. Tebbutt notified Big Island Dairy of its intent to sue April 28. Lawyers from the Center for Food Safety and Seattle-based Terrell Marshall Law Group are also listed on the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs call for the dairy to be ordered to “pay civil penalties of up to $51,570 per day, per violation” for all Clean Water Act violations, and “remediate … and to eliminate any potential for future harm.”
Big Island Dairy produces more than 8,000 gallons of milk daily, according to its website, and opened its doors in 2012. Its mailing address is in Idaho, according to the suit.
As of April, the dairy housed at least 2,599 animals, the suit says. Another dairy had previously been on the same 2,500-acre site, according to the suit.
Read the full complaint here: