While processing a batch of strawberry milk, the owners of Smiling Hill Farm did not expect that a passing thunderstorm could lead them to potentially dump nearly 2,000 gallons of milk down the drain.
Processing their own milk along with milk from four other small dairies, Smiling Hill Farm, located in Westbrook, Maine, is now rushing to replace equipment to get their operation back in running order. A lightning strike hit the facility Tuesday afternoon, damaging a pasteurization control panel.
Required by the federal government to monitor temperature and pressure, the facility is unable to process any of their products until a replacement control panel is installed. The milk can only be stored for 72 hours until it must be pasteurized, otherwise it will need to be dumped.
“It is so sad to see our dairy processing plant totally deserted when we should be bottling our milk,” Smiling Hill said on their Facebook page.
According to the farm’s owner, Warren Knight, the damage could have been more significant. Installing grounded lightning rods around their hillside facility several years ago, the family took preventative steps to minimize damage to their property.
“This could have been much worse if we hadn’t taken those steps in the past,” Knight told Portland Press Herald.
According to Knight, it may not be feasible to have the replacement equipment installed before the 72-hour time period is up, but crews are hoping to beat the clock.
“We really don’t have an alternative,” Knight said. “The only alternative is to go out of business. We’re pushing ahead.”