(BIVN) – The Hawai‘i Department of Health is warning the public stay out of Alaialoa Gulch below Mamalahoa Highway in ʻŌʻōkala, after storm water within the gulch was contaminated with animal waste due to an accidental spill by workers at the Big Island Dairy facility.
Health officials issued a media release on Friday afternoon, saying:
Today at 12 p.m., owners of Big Island Dairy reported approximately 300 gallons of cow manure was spilled during manure reuse activities. While the dairy owners report that the spill has been stopped, the manure could not be recovered.
The DOH is advising the public to avoid contact with water within the Alaialoa Gulch in areas between the Big Island Dairy and shoreline east of ʻŌʻōkala Town. Warning signs are being posted in the area. At this time, it is believed the contaminated water has not reached coastal waters, however, storm water flowing through the gulch may eventually transport the contaminated water downstream.
The DOH Clean Water Branch has notified the owners of the dairy that they must submit a written report documenting the cause of the spill. The discharge of animal waste to state waters is strictly prohibited and the Clean Water Branch will oversee the situation and investigate the cause of the spill.
The DOH Clean Water Branch responds to sewage spills which reach state waters. The Clean Water Branch protects public health and the environment by prohibiting discharges which impair water quality, keeping Hawai‘i’s waters fishable and swimmable for everyone. Owners and operators of wastewater systems must comply with environmental regulations that are in place to protect the public. Failure to do results in legal action by the state, federal partners and/or private citizens.
“This is not an isolated incident,” said Hawaii County Council chair Valerie poindexter, who represents the Hamakua district and who lives in ʻŌʻōkala. “Dairy Waste spills into our gulch has been happening for sometime now. Residents in Ookala have been continuously calling the Department of Health and they claim not to have enough man power and money to test the water. In the past, community members followed the wastewater flow from the gulch all the way down to the cliff-side where it enters the ocean. So there is no question about where it ends up.”
Poindexter added that she is curious to read the report to see how it was “accidental”.