16 Kauai cesspools will be closed to protect water resources

LIHUE — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to close 16 large capacity cesspools on Kauai as part of an ongoing effort to protect Hawaii’s water resources.

The agency will close cesspools operated by two Kauai companies and penalize one of the firms, The Garden Island reported Tuesday.

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Cesspools collect untreated raw sewage. Pathogens that cause disease and harmful chemicals from the cesspools can contaminate ocean water, streams and groundwater, which provides 95% of Hawaii’s domestic water supply.

Cesspool use is more widespread in Hawaii than in any other state. The state Department of Health estimates there are 90,000 cesspools in Hawaii which passed legislation in 2017 requiring their replacement by 2050.

The Kauai Beach Resort Association agreed to pay more than $55,000 after EPA inspectors found restrooms at the Nukolii Beach Park Comfort Station discharging to a cesspool. The association is expected to close the cesspool by January 31, 2021.

EPA officials also found 15 large capacity cesspools on Kauai in 2019 connected to the Hale Kupuna Elderly Housing Complex in Omao.

Complex owner Kauai Housing Development Corporation agreed to close the cesspools by the end of 2022. They will be replaced with a state-approved wastewater treatment system, the company said.

The EPA banned large capacity cesspools in 2005 under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Since then more than 3,600 large capacity cesspools in Hawaii have been closed, although hundreds more remain in operation.

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In 2018, two other Kauai business were fined for operating large capacity cesspools. The owners of a Big Save Market in Koloa were fined $110,000 and the Old Koloa Shopping Center was fined $81,549.

EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud said the agency plans to continue efforts to close the large capacity cesspools because of the risk of pollution to island water.

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