Cesspools Near Hawaii Shopping Center Lead to $52,500 Fine

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with Puainako Town Center Partners Inc., fining the company $52,500 for failing to close large capacity cesspools near the Prince Kuhio Shopping Center in Hilo, Hawaii.

Cesspools discharge raw sewage into the ground, allowing disease-causing pathogens and other contaminants--such as nitrates--to pollute groundwater, streams, and the ocean. According to EPA, 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, ohana homes, apartments, and condominiums.

"We are focused on closing large capacity cesspools to protect drinking water resources for the people of Hawaii," said Alexis Strauss, director of EPA's water division for the Pacific Southwest region. "We'll continue to pursue violators of the cesspool ban, and assess penalties as warranted."

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, which is currently available for public comment, Puainako Town Center must close all eight large capacity cesspools owned and operated by the company by May 1, 2009. Some of the large capacity cesspools have been closed, and all are to be replaced by Hawaii Department of Health approved wastewater systems.

A large capacity cesspool is one that discharges untreated sewage from multiple dwellings, or a non-residential location that serves 20 or more people per day. Federal regulations, which prohibit large capacity cesspools as of April 2005, do not apply to single-family homes connected to their own individual cesspools. For more information on the large capacity cesspool ban, visit www.epa.gov/region09/hicesspools. For more information about the public notice and comment period, go to www.epa.gov/region9/water/drinking/dw-enforcement.html.

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