Dairy lagoon removal underway

HILO — The removal of wastewater lagoons at Big Island Dairy is underway, the state Department of Health said Thursday.

DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo said the dairy’s lower lagoon is offline and was expected to be fully removed by the end of last week.

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The upper lagoon will be removed after the removal of the lower lagoon is completed.

Dairy owners announced in November they would discontinue dairy and milk processing operations at the Ookala facility, which has been owned by Steve and Derek Whitesides since 2011.

The dairy and the DOH entered into an agreement at the end of March that addressed numerous discharges of wastewater containing manure from the dairy into state waters during the past two years.

That agreement required the owners to terminate their dairy operations, remove all cows from confinement, clean and remove the existing wastewater system and pay $79,000 by June, either as an administrative penalty or to fund an environmentally beneficial project in the area.

Approximately 300 cows remain on site, with cows being removed and sold weekly.

According to Okubo, who was sharing information from the DOH Clean Water Branch staff, the dairy is closed, but dairy employees are on site to conduct the remaining closure activities, which includes caring for the remaining cows and cleaning.

“The closure of the dairy has been going well,” Okubo said. “Dairy personnel have worked hard to comply with the DOH-issued (agreement).”

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The Clean Water Branch is not aware of any potential buyers or others interested in the property, she said.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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