Oliveira Slaughterhouse Inches Closer To Re-Opening For Business
Dinis Oliveira, far right, and his Attorney, Peter Gollub, meet with the Board of Health.
Gallery: Oliveira Farm Board of Health [7 Images] Click any image to expand.
It's just a slow process.
Oliveira's business, at 199 Marston St., was shut down after it had been learned last fall that he was operating a custom slaughterhouse in violation of numerous local health, sewer and zoning regulations.
One by one, Oliveira and his attorney, Peter Gollub, have answered allegations, addressed issues and agreed to stipulations. The road has been long but Oliveira -- and his loyal customer base -- hope it leads to the farm being open for business in the near future.
"We're closer," said Gollub, after he and his client appeared for an appeal hearing before the Board of Health last month. "It's a process and it has many facets. We appreciate that the board has given careful consideration to all these issues. We're gratified to see the (progress) so far."
At the appeals hearing on June 19, the Board of Health approved three tentative Notices of Decision (NOD). The notices were not scheduled to become official until they had been approved by Town Counsel and were delivered to Oliveira.
One NOD dealt with health code issues and preventing the possible spread of livestock-borne disease. One of the stipulations was that no members of the public would be allowed to slaughter animals on the site of the 9.7 acre farm, as had been scene by Health Department officials last fall.
A second dealt with the removal of two trailers on the farm that were deemed not fit for human habitation. As of June 19, those trailers had already been removed.
The third NOD dealt with the type and number of animals kept at the farm. When originally built, the farm was just a piggery. But over the years, a variety of livestock have been added. The board voted to approve maximums of 35 swine, 35 cattle, 60 goats, two ponies, 50 chickens/geese and 40 sheep, with a stipulation that one week out of the year that can be increased to 80.
Over the past two decades, the slaughterhouse at Oliveira Farm has become a popular source of meat for members of the Islamic community in Greater Lowell and Southern New Hampshire. Oliveira is able to custom slaughter in the Ḏabīḥah tradition of ritual slaughter. This method involves slicing the jugular vein of the animal, which is more effective for draining the blood of the animal. This is believed to result in more hygienic meat and is believed to be a more humane form of slaughter.
The problem is that while Oliveira received permitting from the state as a slaughterhouse, the Town of Tewksbury does not allow slaughterhouses. This is why Oliveira has appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals.
A scheduled meeting with the ZBA two weeks ago was postponed until later this month at Oliveira's request.
But the biggest issue Oliveira still has to deal with involved the sewer system. Last year, it was found that animal blood and bits of animal tissue had been washed into the sewer system. Town officials are convinced this came from the Oliveira Farm slaughterhouse. This put in jeopardy the town's agreement with the Lowell Wastewater Treatment plant.
Oliveira and Gollub were planning to meet with DPW Superintendent Brian Gilbert to address those issues.
The Board of Health isn't through with the farm either. They still have two more NODs to approve and issue.
According to Health Department Director Lou-Ann Clement, if certain criteria are met, Oliveira can begin operating the farm and can purchase livestock, house it and sell it. But all of the criteria will need to be met and concerns addressed before the slaughterhouse is allowed to be operational again.