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EPA fines Hawaii local and state governments, requires three cesspool closures in effort to protect groundwater 

Jul 22, 2020

HONOLULU – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will take enforcement actions on Oahu and the Big Island to bring about the closure of three pollution-causing large-capacity cesspools (LCCs) and issue $268,000 in fines. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA banned LCCs in 2005.

“Large-capacity cesspools can contaminate our groundwater, streams and ocean resources,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “EPA will continue efforts to identify and close the remaining LCCs in Hawai‘i including those owned by state and local government agencies.”

EPA is authorized to issue compliance orders and/or assess penalties to violators of the Safe Drinking Water Act’s LCC regulations. EPA actions to close LCCs owned by state and local government include:

• Helemano Plantation: Located in central Oahu, the Helemano Plantation is owned by the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources and leased by the City and County of Honolulu (CCH). EPA identified two LCCs on this property which serve a restaurant, gift shop and farm. The cesspools must be closed by the end of this year. CCH has agreed to pay a $135,000 penalty.

• Kainaliu Comfort Station: Located on the leeward side of the Big Island in Kealakekua, the Kainaliu Comfort Station is owned by Hawai‘i County. The comfort station has a public toilet in its parking lot which discharges to an LCC. Hawai‘i County has agreed to pay a $133,000 fine and close the cesspool by the end of this year. 

Since the 2005 LCC ban, more than 3,600 LCCs in Hawai‘i have been closed; however, many hundreds remain in operation. Cesspools collect and discharge untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean. Groundwater provides 95% of all local water supply in Hawai‘i, where cesspools are used more widely than in any other state.

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In 2017, the state of Hawai‘i passed Act 125, which requires the replacement of all cesspools by 2050. It is estimated that there are approximately 88,000 cesspools in Hawai‘i. A state income tax credit is available for upgrading qualified cesspools to a septic system or aerobic treatment unit or connecting them to a sewer. The tax credit ends on December 31, 2020.

For more information on the large-capacity cesspool ban and definition of a large-capacity cesspool, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/uic/cesspools-hawaii.

For more information on these agreements visit the  Helemano Plantation and the Kainaliu Comfort Station websites.

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