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Hawaii County gets $1.36 million to replace cesspools

Release Date: 03/02/2006
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711,

(03/02/06) HONOLULU -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a grant of over $1.36 million to the County of Hawai’i to replace the large capacity cesspools, “gang cesspools” that have served the plantation communities of Naalehu and Pahala.

The County of Hawai’i will replace the existing sewer lines serving the 1,027 residents of Naalehu and the sewer lines for the 1,378 residents of Pahala. In addition, the large capacity cesspools will be eliminated and replaced with community septic systems. The county has also agreed to assume responsibility for operation and maintenance of the two systems and is using funds from the congressional appropriation and matching it with funds from the State Revolving Fund Loan Program.

“Replacing these large cesspools that release raw sewage is a major 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 committed to assisting the residents of the Big Island with replacing the many large cesspools around the island.”

The deadline to close all large capacity cesspools statewide was April 5, 2005. The EPA’s regulations have prohibited the construction of new large capacity cesspools since April 5, 2000. A large capacity cesspool is one that receives untreated sewage from a multiple dwelling; or a non-residential facility that serves 20 or more people on any day.

The EPA regulations do not apply to single-family homes connected to their own individual cesspools. Cesspools allow the direct discharge of raw sewage into the ground and pose environmental and public health risks.

"I believe that the County is obligated to help the residents of Pahala and Na‘alehu by improving and taking ownership of the sewer system. This EPA grant award will go a long way in accomplishing that and protecting the environment as well," said Mayor Harry Kim.

The EPA has been working with county, state and federal agencies in Hawai’i to close more than 800 publicly owned large capacity cesspools across the state of Hawai’i. Large capacity cesspools also serve restaurants, hotels, office complexes and multiple homes. Since November of 2003, more than 2400 large capacity cesspools have been identified statewide and most owners have submitted compliance plans.

The EPA and the Hawaii Department of Health project there are more than 4000 large capacity cesspools statewide. The EPA and DOH are continually identifying new large capacity cesspools with the assistance of realtors and county agencies. EPA continues to encourage large capacity cesspool owners to submit compliance plans.

Some alternatives to using a large capacity cesspool include hooking up to available community sewer systems or using a septic tank 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 DOH application forms for cesspool closure are available through the DOH and closure instructions will be issued once a facility submits its application.

For additional information, visit EPA’s website at:

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