Kamehameha parcels to be checked for cesspools

HILO — Kamehameha Schools has conducted an assessment of its properties statewide in efforts to identify, and subsequently close, any large-capacity cesspools.

In October 2018, the educational trust reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in which more than 3,000 of Kamehameha Schools’ properties across the state were to be audited.

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“Kamehameha Schools looks at the stewardship of KS aina holistically in order to ensure its health and vitality and look at how KS can affect broader systems changes statewide and within our communities,” spokeswoman Crystal Kua said. “It’s within this context that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Kamehameha Schools entered into a landmark agreement in which KS agreed to audit more than 3,000 properties spanning more than 365,000 acres to identify and close any remaining large-capacity cesspools.”

According to Kua, as a result of that statewide audit, Kamehameha Schools identified 96 properties on Oahu for an independent third-party auditor to inspect.

Three large-capacity cesspools were discovered as a result of those inspections and the remediation process for those properties has begun.

On the Big Island, 500 properties, comprising approximately 114,000 acres, have been identified for an auditor to inspect for large-capacity cesspools, she said.

Hawaii Island is home to about 297,000 acres, or 80 percent, of Kamehameha Schools’ land. Kua said nearly 2,000 properties were initially evaluated before those 500, which are located throughout the island, were identified.

“Due to the number of inspections on Hawaii Island, the Environmental Protection Agency has extended the deadlines for inspections to December 2020, and those inspections are underway,” she said.

None of Kamehameha Schools’ additional properties on Oahu or properties on Maui, Molokai and Kauai contain large-capacity cesspools.

The EPA Region IX and Kamehameha Schools continues to work closely on the matter, Kua said.

Cesspools collect and discharge “waterborne pollutants,” such as untreated raw sewage, into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean, the EPA said in October when the agreement was announced. The federal government banned large-capacity cesspools in 2005, which makes closing all such cesspools an ongoing priority.

Cesspools are more widely used in Hawaii than any other state, even though 95 percent of all drinking water in Hawaii comes from groundwater sources, the EPA said at that time.

The voluntary land audits came after an inspection at Volcano Golf Course and Country Club, property that is owned by Kamehameha Schools, found a large-capacity cesspool.

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Kamehameha Schools was fined $99,531 related to that cesspool for the violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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