EPA Reaches Large-Capacity Cesspool Agreements With County Of Hawaii

EPA announced on Nov. 21 that it reached two agreements with the County of Hawaii to close 133 large-capacity cesspools, pursuant to the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act regulations.

EPA reached agreements with the County of Hawaii's Department of Public Works and Department of Environmental Management. The agreements cover cesspools at parks and county buildings island-wide, as well as housing in the Komohana Heights and Queen Liliuokalani subdivisions. As part of the settlement, the county also agreed to evaluate the potential for additional sewer construction in the Honokaa and Queen Liliuokalani areas that could assist other property owners with the closing their cesspools.

"This agreement commits the county to close their remaining cesspools, and thereby protects drinking water, streams, and beaches throughout the island," said Alexis Strauss, director for the EPA's water division for the Pacific Southwest region. "All large capacity cesspool owners need to meet these requirements by providing compliance plans and schedules, and closing large capacity-cesspools promptly."

A large-capacity cesspool is one that discharges untreated sewage from a multiple dwelling, or a non-residential location that serves 20 or more people on any day. The regulations, which prohibit large-capacity cesspools as of April 2005, do not apply to single-family homes connected to their own individual cesspools.

Cesspools discharge raw sewage into the ground, which results in disease-causing pathogens and other contaminants -- such as nitrates -- polluting groundwater, streams and the ocean.

Cesspools are used more widely in Hawaii than in any other state. Many are owned by the counties, the state, and the federal government. However, there are numerous other cesspools serving restaurants, hotels, office complexes and multiple dwellings, such as duplexes, ohana homes, apartments and condominiums.

The consent agreement with the County of Hawaii is part of the agency's continuing effort to gain compliance with the large-capacity cesspool ban. Failure to comply could result in enforcement by the agency and the imposition of penalties.

For more information on cesspools in Hawaii, visit http://www.epa.gov/region09/water/groundwater/uic-hicesspools.html.

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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