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Big Island Dairy agrees to shutdown timeline in settlement


    Cows being released after the milking process is completed at Big Island Dairy. The dairy has agreed to end operations by April 30 in a settlement reached with a community group and an environmental organization.

HILO >> A Big Island dairy farm agreed to end its operations by April 30 in a settlement reached with a community group and an environmental organization.

Kupale Ookala and the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against Big Island Dairy in 2017, alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported .

The settlement requires the dairy to stop milking by Feb. 28 and end operations by April 30, according to court documents filed Tuesday. It also details timelines for cattle removal and facility cleanups.

“It’s a clear and decisive timeline for shutting down and for the pollution to stop impacting the community of Ookala,” said Charlie Tebbutt, the attorney who represented the two groups. “For the last seven years, Big Island Dairy has been wantonly polluting the community of Ookala and the environment of Hawaii and it’s time for it to stop.”

Citing the dairy’s “potential insolvency,” the settlement states that no penalties will be assessed or paid in the resolution of the lawsuit. But civil penalties will be levied through the state Department of Health’s administrative process.

The state fined the dairy $91,000 in December for three separate spills between April and May. It also fined the dairy $25,000 in May 2017 for an unlawful discharge of wastewater.

The penalties collected by the state will be paid to an “appropriate supplemental environmental project or environmentally beneficial project” for the benefit of the Ookala community, according to the documents.

Dairy owner Derek Whitesides declined to comment Tuesday.

The lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial this month. Big Island Dairy said in November that it would discontinue its dairy and milk processing operations at the Ookala facility.

“Given the circumstances, given that they’re going out of business, it made no sense to go to trial,” Tebbutt said.

Getting civil penalties was “no longer a realistic possibility,” Tebbutt said, but his clients got a “firm agreement” that the dairy would close.

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