Costco To Pay $75,000 For Cesspools Violations

Costco will install wastewater treatment and pay a fine of $75,000 for failing to close and replace three large capacity cesspools at its Kona facility on Hawaii, the state's "Big Island," as required by a settlement EPA announced on May 30.

"(This) settlement is part of our continuing effort to close large capacity cesspools and protect drinking water sources on the Big Island," said Alexis Strauss, director for the EPA's water division for the Pacific Southwest region. "We will continue to encourage all large capacity cesspool owners to meet the requirements by closing large capacity cesspools promptly."

Costco is being required to:

  • Install dual chamber septic tanks with effluent filters.
  • Install grease interceptors on their other injection wells that receive food processing wastewater.
  • Monitor wastewater quality before and after treatment for at least six months to determine if treatment is working.
  • Provide periodic reports to EPA on wastewater quality and injection well operation and maintenance.

The proposed settlement begins a 30-day public review and comment period that ends June 29.

A large capacity cesspool is one that discharges untreated sewage from multiple dwellings, 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 county, state and federal agencies. However, there are numerous other cesspools serving restaurants, hotels, office complexes, and multiple dwellings, such as duplexes, apartments and condominiums.

For more information on the large capacity cesspool ban, visit http://www.epa.gov/region09/hicesspools. For more information about the public notice and comment period, go to http://www.epa.gov/region9/water/drinking/dw-enforcement.html.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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