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EPA closes 12 Big Island cesspools and issues nearly $145K in fines

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has shut down a dozen large-capacity cesspools on Hawaii island, and issued $144,696 in fines to two property owners.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has shut down a dozen large-capacity cesspools on Hawaii island, and issued $144,696 in fines to two property owners.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Monday said it has shut down a dozen large-capacity cesspools on Hawaii island, and issued $144,696 in fines to two property owners.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA in 2005 banned large-capacity cesspools, defined as serving multi-unit residential dwellings such as townhouse complexes and apartment buildings, or 20 or more persons per day in non-residential dwellings, such as rest areas or churches.

EPA inspectors fined K. Oue Ltd., the owner of multi-unit buildings in Kealakekua $88,545 for illegally discharging wastewater into 11 cesspools. The owner has agreed to pay the penalty, and to replace all 11 cesspools with compliant systems, according to the EPA.

In Kailua-Kona, the EPA fined Group Investments LLC $56,151 for failing to close a cesspool at a building that the company owns and leases to tenants Sherwin Williams and B. Hayman Co. Services. The owner has agreed to pay the penalty and replace the cesspool, the EPA said.

“Large-capacity cesspools can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean,” said EPA Pacific Southwest regional administrator John Busterud in a news release. “EPA will continue our efforts to identify and take enforcement actions to close the remaining large capacity cesspools in Hawaii.”

Since the ban in 2005, the EPA said more than 3,400 of the cesspools have been closed statewide.

In 2017, the state of Hawaii passed Act 125, which requires the replacement of all cesspools by 2050. An estimated 90,000 cesspools, however, still remain in the state.

In October, the EPA fined an Oahu shrimp truck and two Hawaii island properties a total of $104,143 for five illegal cesspools.

Cesspools — basically underground holes used for the disposal of human waste — collect and discharge untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean, according to the EPA.

In Hawaii, where cesspools are used more widely than in any other state, groundwater provides 95% of all domestic water.

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