HILO >> Big Island Dairy said this week it will cease operations and lay off its 24 employees next year, citing financial and regulatory reasons. The owners of the facility in Ookala said in a statement that it will take months to close up shop.
“The milk processing will end, and cows will be removed from active milking,” owners Derek and Steve Whitesides said in a joint 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.”
In the meantime they’re looking for a buyer interested in keeping the dairy running.
“The residents of Hawaii are better off with a local, sustainable food supply that includes milk and dairy products,” the owners said.
The dairy has faced a federal lawsuit and state regulatory action after multiple wastewater discharges.
Residents of Ookala have complained for several years that the wastewater ran through or next to the community.
A lawsuit alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act was filed in 2017. Also that year the state Department of Health fined the dairy $25,000, alleging an unlawful discharge.
In May nearly 2.3 million gallons of rain and wastewater were discharged from the dairy and entered nearby gulches over a three-day period, according to a state report.