EPA assesses fines, requires closure of 12 large-capacity cesspools

The owners of a dozen large-capacity cesspools in North and South Kona have agreed to pay fines and replace them with compliant systems.

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

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K. Oue, who owns a multi-unit residential building that illegally discharged wastewater into 11 cesspools in Kealakekua, will pay an $88,545 penalty and close all 11 cesspools, according to the EPA. Oue will also replace the cesspools with compliant systems.

In Kailua-Kona, Group Investments LLC failed to close a large-capacity cesspool at a building that the company owns and leases to tenants Sherwin Williams and B. Hayman Co. Services, according to the EPA. The cesspool will be replaced with a compliant system and Group Investments has agreed to pay a $56,151 penalty.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA banned large-capacity cesspools in 2005. Since then, more than 3,400 of the cesspools have been closed statewide; 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, according to the EPA. Groundwater provides 95% of all domestic water in Hawaii, where cesspools are used more widely than in any other state.

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In 2017, the State of Hawaii passed Act 125, which requires the replacement of all cesspools by 2050. It is estimated that there are approximately 90,000 cesspools in Hawaii.

For more information, visit www.epa.gov/uic/cesspools-hawaii.

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