The residents of Ookala, Hawaii have formed nonprofit organization Kupale Ookala (KO)—meaning “defend Ookala”—to take legal action against factory farm Big Island Dairy after it discharged millions of gallons of liquid waste, polluting water and making the residents sick. KO filed a lawsuit against Big Island Dairy in June 2017, and recently submitted additional documents supporting its motion to prove that the dairy farm violated the federal Clean Water Act on dozens of occasions. On May 6 to 9 and August 13 to 25, more than 8 million gallons of liquid manure, cattle urine, and other noxious substances were discharged into three ravines that pass through the town and into the ocean. According to residents, the incidents reached a crisis point two years ago when a storm breached lagoons where manure and urine were being stored. “All that effluent ended up coming into Ookala,” KO Vice President Charlene Nishida told Honolulu Civil Beat. “The town got shut down; the school bus couldn’t deliver children.” The Hawaii Department of Health fined Big Island Dairy for discharges over two days in 2017 and ordered the facility to cease discharging into state waters, but KO says the spills and manure runoff have continued. “That’s what the citizens’ suit is all about,” KO Attorney Charles Tebbutt said. “When the federal and state governments fail to do their job and fail to protect the public, the people have the right to protect themselves.” Earlier this year, residents in North Carolina won a longstanding series of lawsuits against meat giant Smithfield Foods, which was fined $473 million for destroying the quality of life for residents living near its factory farms.
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