Skip to main content
Edit Page Style Guide Control Panel

Big Island Dairy LLC Class Action

Kupale Ookala, Inc. v. Big Island Dairy, LLC

About this case:

Community groups Kupale Ookala and Center for Food Safety sued the Idaho‑based dairy company Big Island Dairy, LLC, owned by Steven and Derek Whitesides, for violating the federal Clean Water Act by continuously discharging animal urine and feces into streams and ocean waters in and around the community of Ookala, HI. The complaint alleges that Big Island Dairy’s improper manure applications and storage practices have caused, and continue to cause, discharges of animal waste and pollutants into streams flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

Big Island Dairy, a large concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), confines nearly 2,600 cows uphill from the town of Ookala, northwest of Hilo, at the base of Mauna Kea. The dairy is supposed to store and use all of its animal urine and feces onsite, including holding it in open-air waste lagoons and spraying the manure wastewater as liquid manure on its crop fields. However, residents of Ookala have witnessed brown murky water smelling of animal feces, tested to contain high levels of dangerous bacteria, flowing from the dairy into local waterways, and ultimately into the Pacific Ocean. They have also observed the dairy spraying liquid manure on its crops during high wind days, or immediately before or during rainfall, leading to increased runoff and pollution drift. Under the Clean Water Act, any discharge from Big Island Dairy is a violation of state and federal water pollution laws.

The local community’s repeated efforts to get the industrial dairy to cease polluting their waters have fallen on deaf ears. In 2014, based on a complaint from the community, the Hawaii Department of Health confirmed feces and urine from the dairy had contaminated local streams, but took no action. In a December 2016 inspection report, the Department noted that the dairy’s lagoon systems were so poorly maintained that there was “a high potential” of discharge, but still took no action. It was only after the community groups provided Big Island Dairy with formal notice of their intent to sue that the Department issued a notice of violation. Instead of complying with the law, Big Island Dairy has continued to discharge animal urine and feces, endangering public health and the environment, and violating the Ookala community’s right to enjoy its local waters.

The lawsuit is filed in the federal district court of Hawaii. The plaintiff community groups are jointly represented by the Law Offices of Charlie Tebbutt, Center for Food Safety and Amanda Steiner of Terrell Marshall PLLC.

Read the complaint and exhibits here.

See pictures and videos of Big Island Dairy’s pollution here.

Case Status:

This case was filed in federal district court of Hawaii on June 28, 2017.

Class Counsel:

Terrell Marshall Law Group PLLC

Amanda Steiner

Center for Food Safety

Paige Tomaselli

Sylvia Wu

Law Offices of Charles M. Tebbutt, P.C.

Charles M. Tebbutt

Sarah A. Matsumoto