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EPA awards $76,000 to Hawai'i County for work on large capacity cesspools

Release Date: 1/13/2004
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, (808) 541-2711

Issued jointly by EPA, Hawaii Department of Health and Hawai'i County

All large cesspools statewide need to be closed by April 2005

HONOLULU -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a grant of $76,000 to Hawai'i County to identify large capacity cesspools and to continue efforts to replace such facilities on the Big Island.

All large capacity cesspools statewide must be closed by April 5, 2005. The EPA's regulations have prohibited the construction of new large capacity cesspools since April 5, 2000.

"Replacing or closing large cesspools that release raw sewage is a vital step in protecting human health and the waters of Hawai'i." said Alexis Strauss, director for the EPA's water division for the Pacific Southwest region. "Mayor Kim and his Hawai'i County staff are leading the effort to assist Big Island cesspool owners in meeting the April 2005 closure deadline."

The project, which is the first phase of a larger cesspool replacement effort, will:

- identify potential owners of large cesspools,
- conduct an outreach/education program by holding public meetings, running newspaper advertisements and making public service announcements,
- assist owners with selecting alternative systems, any necessary paperwork, and possibly funding.

"Although this is a federal mandate, I believe it is important to replace or close these cesspools to help protect the Big Island's people and environment." said Mayor Harry Kim. "This county supports the need for this work and staff and resources are working to accomplish this important task."

The EPA has been working with county, state and federal agencies in Hawai'i to begin closing more than 300 publicly owned large capacity cesspools across the state of Hawai'i. Large capacity cesspools can also serve restaurants, hotels, office complexes and multiple homes. A data search has identified more than 2,000 potential large capacity cesspools statewide.

A large capacity cesspool is a hole in the ground that receives untreated sewage from 20 or more people per day or daily flows exceeding 1,000 gallons. This federal ban does not typically apply to single family residential cesspools.

Some alternatives to using a large capacity cesspool include hooking up to available sewer systems or using a large capacity septic system or a wastewater package plant to treat the sewage before disposal into the ground. The Hawai'i Department of Health's Wastewater Branch can assist owners with the selection of appropriate treatment and disposal alternatives.

The proper closure of any large capacity cesspool must meet federal and state guidelines, as well as instructions provided by the Department of Health. Application forms for cesspool closure are available through the Department of Health and closure instructions will be issued once a facility submits its application.

For questions and assistance on the Big Island, contact Margarita Hopkins, Hawai'i County Research and Development Office:,Big Island: 961-8369

To register or close a large capacity cesspool, contact the Hawai'i Dept. of Health Underground Injection Control Program toll-free from the following islands:,
Oahu: 586-4258
Kauai: 274-3141, x64258
Maui: 984-2400, x64258
Molokai & Lanai: 1-800-468-4644, x64258

To install wastewater treatment, contact the Hawai'i Dept. of Health Wastewater Branch toll-free from the following islands:,
Oahu: 586-4294
Kauai: 274-3141, x64294
Maui: 984-2400, x64294
Molokai & Lanai: 1-800-468-4644, x64294

To get information on the large capacity cesspool ban, contact Laura Bose or Shannon FitzGerald at the Environmental Protection Agency toll free:,From all islands: 1-866-EPA-WEST(1-866-372-9378)
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