NF Kawakami fined in EPA settlement

LIHUE — Koloa Big Save Supermarket is sitting on a large-capacity cesspool that has drawn a civil penalty of $110,000 for violating the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

And now, a new, onsite wastewater treatment system is in the works for the Koloa Big Save, according to Esther Kawakami-Williams, Vice President of the company that owns the land under the building, NF Kawakami Ltd.

The company has been working with EPA, the County of Kauai, the State of Hawaii to find solutions to the large-capacity cesspool (LCC) since 2005, Kawakami-Williams said, and was on track to be part of the Koloa/Poipu regional wastewater treatment system until 2013.

“In 2013, given the amount of time the regional project was taking, it became clear that an independent solution would have to suffice for us and we began a process to design and install an onsite wastewater treatment system on our own,” Kawakami-Williams said.

She continued: “NFK’s new onsite wastewater treatment system will be fully installed and operational by May 2019 and will exceed regulatory requirements and result in significant environmental benefits for the area.”

The required replacement is part of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency efforts to close large-capacity cesspools after a 2005 federal government ban on LCCs, and the fine is directed toward NF Kawakami Ltd., (NFK), which owns the land under the Koloa Big Save.

Just in 2017, EPA required 19 Hawaii cesspools to close in 2017 and charged more than $500,000 in fines.

Some of the companies that were part of EPA’s 2017 list include Aloha Petroleum, Ltd., which paid a penalty of $57,500 for an illegal LCC at a Hawaii Island location; the U.S. Navy, which paid $94,200 and closed nine LCCs at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and the County of Hawaii, which agreed to close seven large capacity cesspools that sere the Pahala and Naalehu communities.

EPA announced the settlement with NF Kawakami Store, Ltd. (NFK), the property owner of the Koloa Big Save Market, Tuesday.

“EPA is committed to protecting Hawaii’s coastal water resources by closing all large-capacity cesspools,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our large-capacity cesspool inspection and enforcement efforts will continue until all such cesspools are shut down.”

Cesspools collect and discharge waterborne pollutants like untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean, according to EPA officials, and they’re more widely used in Hawaii than any other state.

As of 2017, Hawaii has about 88,000 cesspools, which “provide no treatment and inject about 53 million gallons of raw sewage into Hawaii’s groundwater every day, potentially spreading disease and harming the quality of drinking water supplies and recreational waters,” according to the Hawaii Department of Health.

EPA has acknowledged that NFK has been working together with the various entities on the issue since 2005.

“We had hoped to be part of a more large-scale solution with our region and wished the whole process to address wastewater treatment had gone faster and been more fruitful, but we also realize we could not control all the many factors involved,” Kawakami-Williams said.

The Big Save business began in 1926 when the families of Saburo and Furutaro Kawakami, who were brothers, started stores in Waimea and Hanapepe. It was incorporated as Big Save Inc. in 1958, and grew from there. Five of the six stores were sold to the owners of Oahu-based Times Supermarkets in May of 2011.

“We care deeply about our environment, neighbors, and the surrounding community, and we’re glad that our new wastewater treatment system will soon be completed and begin to address a regional issue that has affected the area for so long,” Kawakami-Williams said.


Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or

  1. No_They_Didn't May 9, 2018 4:00 pm Reply

    They went broke in 1981. Hurricane EWA. I forgot the month. No such thing as FEMA. Heard of him. Congrats, buddy boy. Good story.

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