The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today it has fined two companies a combined total of $110,000 in fines for operating illegal cesspools in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Both Hale Kauai Limited, a hardware store turned real estate firm on the Garden isle, and Halona Pacific LLC, an environmental management and construction services company on Oahu, must also close the large-capacity cesspools on their properties.
Cesspools — basically shallow, 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.
Large-capacity cesspools, defined by the EPA as serving multiple residential dwellings such as apartment buildings, or 20 or more persons per day in non-residential dwellings, such as rest areas or churches, were banned in 2005 under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
“Companies like Hale Kauai and Halona Pacific must do their part to protect water resources from the disease-causing pathogens found in large cesspools,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman in a news release. “EPA is committed to finding and closing all remaining large capacity cesspools in Hawaii.”
In August 2020, EPA requested information about wastewater disposal at the Hale Kauai property, which operates as Hardware Hawaii, a neighborhood hardware store in the Koloa area, and determined it was operating a large-capacity cesspool.
This was concerning, according to the EPA, given that there are seven public drinking water wells in the Koloa area where the property is located.
Hale Kauai has agreed to pay a $40,000 fine, backfill the illegal cesspool, and install a state-approved septic system by March 15, 2023.
In March 2021, EPA requested similar information from Halona Pacific property at Campbell Industrial Park on Oahu, and found it, too, was operating a large-capacity cesspool. Halona Pacific has agreed to pay a $70,000 fine, as well as to backfill the illegal cesspool, and install a state-approved septic system by Jan. 31, 2023.
The EPA says cesspools are used more widely in Hawaii than any other state, which poses a particular challenge, considering that groundwater provides 95% of all local water supply for the islands.
Since the 2005 federal ban, more than 3,600 large-capacity cesspools in Hawaii have been closed. Hundreds, however, remain in operation.