Hilmar Cheese’s Endless Loop of Conservation

The San Francisco Chronicle looks at the myriad environmental problems associated with Hilmar Cheese’s big production facility near Fresno:

The plant supplies bottled water to about a dozen homes, ranches and offices. But many families still have to wash clothes and dishes and take showers in well water so high in salts that it leaves a residue of white chunky crystals.


The well water was fine before Hilmar Cheese started dumping its wastewater on fields 15 feet from their property line, John and Rita Sanders said.

"This was the nastiest stuff you ever saw," John Sanders, a truck driver and former bull rider, said. "It smelled like dirty diapers – 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

In 1997, a Hilmar Cheese drainpipe leaked, and water pooled on the Sanderses’ property for about two weeks until it was fixed. First the family noticed the odd taste and smell of its well water. The water pitted holes in the clothes in the washing machine. After they took showers, their skin felt as though it were burning.

I’ve checked the RealCaliforniaMilk.com website, and, shockingly, I’m not finding a link to this article. But they do have a very nice section devoted to “sustainability,” which talks about the “endless loop of conservation” that the state’s milk and cheese producers practice. Hilmar Cheese is on their list of “Real California Cheesemakers.” Link.