EPA fines Hawaii library system $144K for cesspool violation

HONOLULU — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has assessed nearly $144,000 in penalties against the Hawaii State Public Library System for continued use of large-­capacity cesspools.

The library system is seeking authority from state lawmakers to pay the penalties for using the cesspools, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

Large-capacity cesspools were banned in 2005 under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. More than 3,600 large-capacity cesspools in Hawaii have been closed since then, although the EPA said hundreds more remain in operation.

Mallory Fujitani, special assistant to State Librarian Stacey Aldrich, said the office first learned of the illegal cesspools in 2017 when an EPA inspector visited the Waialua Public Library on Oahu.

The same inspector visited the Kealakekua Public Library on Hawaii island later that year and identified prohibited cesspools at both facilities.

The library system set aside health and safety funding to begin planning and design work to close out the cesspools and replace them with legally allowable wastewater systems, Fujitani said.

Construction bids were opened in late May, but Fujitani declined to say how much the work will cost because the contract has not been finalized.

The state Department of Accounting and General Services estimated work at both sites will cost about $350,000, not including the cost of the EPA fines.

Fujitani did not know if there were internal discussions within the library system or the accounting and general services department between 2005 and 2017 about closing the cesspools.

Alejandro Diaz, public affairs specialist for the EPA Pacific Islands Contact Office, declined comment on when the library cesspools were first discovered by the agency or when the library system was notified.

Diaz also declined comment on whether the proposed fine was reduced during negotiations with the state.

The Hawaii library system is responsible for 53 buildings, including 51 libraries on six islands.

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