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EPA closure deadline nears for large capacity cesspools in Hawai'i

Release Date: 2/22/2005
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, (808) 541-2711

Large cesspools need to be closed by April

HONOLULU - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Hawai'i Department of Health are reminding facility owners and the public that all existing large capacity cesspools need to be closed by April 5.

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 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.

"We urge facilities with large capacity cesspools to act now to meet the upcoming federal deadline for closure," said Alexis Strauss, director of EPA's Water Division for the Pacific Southwest Region. "We are focusing on Hawaii's cesspool problems on each island to protect Hawaii's drinking water, streams, and beaches from these sources of contamination."

Cesspools are used more widely in Hawaii than in any other state. There are an estimated 2,000 large capacity cesspools statewide, many of which are owned by the counties, the state, and the federal government. However, there are many others serving restaurants, hotels, office complexes, and multiple homes, apartments and condominiums.

Failure to close or upgrade a large capacity cesspool by April 5 could result in fines of up to $32,500 per day per large capacity cesspool. The EPA has discretion on its enforcement actions and may take into consideration actions and progress toward meeting the deadline.

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. All alternative wastewater systems must be approved by the Hawaii Department of Health.

For more information please visit:

Toll-free numbers to contact the Environmental Protection Agency and the Hawai'i Department of Health are listed below.

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

To get information on wastewater treatment, contact the Hawai'i Dept. of Health Wastewater Branch toll-free from the following islands:

Oahu: 586-4294
Big Island: 974-4000, x64294
Kauai: 274-3141, x64294
Maui: 984-2400, x64294
Molokai & Lanai: 1-800-468-4644, x64294

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