The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said its enforcement actions this year led to the closure of 10 large-capacity cesspools in Hawaii and more than $640,000 in fines.
The EPA in 2005 banned large-capacity cesspools under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Since then, more than 3,400 large-capacity cesspools — defined as cesspools that serve 20 or more daily — have been closed statewide. However, thousands remain in operation in Hawaii, where cesspools are used more widely than in any other state.
Cesspools collect and discharge untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean.
“We will continue working to close all remaining large cesspools,” said EPA Pacific Southwest regional administrator Mike Stoker in a news release. “This enforcement effort will help protect Hawaii’s drinking water and coastal water resources.”
Among the large cesspools that EPA actions closed this past year were:
>> Hawaii Country Club: EPA inspectors found a large cesspool on Hawaii Country Club’s property in Wahiawa on Oahu. As part of the agreement, the club agreed to close the cesspool by Nov. 30, in addition to paying a $40,000 penalty.
>> Kloeckner Metals Corporation: The company failed to close a large cesspool on its property at Campbell Industrial Park on Oahu. Kloeckner Metals will close the cesspool, as well as two small-capacity cesspools at the facility by Dec. 31, in addition to paying a $46,608 penalty.
>> Honolulu, LLC/Hon Realty: Inspectors found an operating cesspool on Hon Realty’s property at Campbell Industrial Park. Hon Realty also disclosed a second cesspool located at a nearby property. As part of the agreement, Hon Realty will close both cesspools by April 30, 2019, and pay a $126,652 penalty.
>> Kamehameha Schools: The largest landowner in Hawaii agreed to a landmark initiative to audit over 3,000 properties spanning more than 365,000 acres to identify and close large-capacity cesspools. As part of this agreement, Kamehameha Schools is also settling an administrative action for $99,531 related to a cesspool at the Volcano Golf Course and Country Club, a property which it owned and leased to Hawaii International Sporting Club on Hawaii island. In July 2017, the lessee closed the cesspool and replaced it with an approved septic system.
>> Dole Food Co.: The company failed to close two large cesspools at its 9-acre Puuiki Beach Park property in Waialua, which is used by Dole employees for company gatherings and recreational activities. The company has since closed the two cesspools and replaced them with state-approved septic systems and paid a $145,000 penalty.
>> Smith Waterhouse Family of Koloa: EPA inspectors found two large cesspools at the Old Koloa Town Shopping Center on the island of Kauai. Under the settlement, the company will close the cesspools and replace them with a wastewater treatment plant approved by the state Health Department, in addition to paying a penalty of $81,549.
>> N.F. Kawakami Store: Under the settlement, the company, which is the property owner of the Koloa Big Save Supermarket, will close a large cesspool on Kauai, replace it with a wastewater treatment plant, and pay a civil penalty of $110,000.
While the federal ban applies to large capacity cesspools, the state has set a goal of closing or upgrading all small-capacity cesspools by 2050.