LIHU‘E — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set closure dates and doled out fines for three more cesspools in Hawai‘i, a continuation of a campaign to replace all of the state’s cesspools by 2050.
The latest three cesspools to land on the closure list are located on O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island and comes just weeks after EPA took enforcement action to close 16 large-capacity cesspools on Kaua‘i.
Two of those identified for closure on Wednesday are located in Central O‘ahu on the Helemano Plantation, which is owned by the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources and leased by the City and County of Honolulu (CCH).
EPA identified two LCCs on this property which serve a restaurant, gift shop and farm. The cesspools must be closed by the end of this year. CCH has agreed to pay a $135,000 penalty.
On the leeward side of Hawai‘i Island in Kealakekua, the Kainaliu Comfort Station is owned by Hawai‘i County. The comfort station has a public toilet in its parking lot which discharges to an LCC. Hawai‘i County has agreed to pay a $133,000 fine and close the cesspool by the end of this year.
“Large-capacity cesspools can contaminate our groundwater, streams and ocean resources,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “EPA will continue efforts to identify and close the remaining LCCs in Hawai‘i including those owned by state and local government agencies.”
In 2017, the state of Hawai‘i passed Act 125, which requires the replacement of all cesspools by 2050. It is estimated that there are approximately 88,000 cesspools in Hawai‘i.
A state income tax credit is available for upgrading qualified cesspools to a septic system or aerobic treatment unit or connecting them to a sewer. The tax credit ends on December 31, 2020.
In early June, EPA announced that inspectors found 15 LCC’s associated with the Hale Kupuna Elderly Housing Complex in Omao. The owner of the housing complex, Kaua‘i Housing Development Corporation (KHDC), confirmed that 14 of those LCCs serviced seven multi-unit residential buildings, and one LCC serviced a recreation center building.
Under the EPA compliance order announced June 15, KHDC agreed to close the cesspools by no later than December 31, 2022. KHDC plans to replace the LCCs with a state-approved wastewater treatment system.
At the Nukoli’i Beach Park Comfort Station, located on the windward side of Kaua‘i, EPA inspectors found the restrooms discharged to an LCC. The owner, the Kaua‘i Beach Resort Association, has agreed to pay a $55,182 penalty and close the LCC by January 31, 2021.
According to EPA, cesspools collect and discharge untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean. Groundwater provides 95% of all domestic water in Hawai‘i, where cesspools are used more widely than in any other state.
Jessica Else, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or email@example.com.