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EPA announces large capacity cesspool agreement with Hawai’i Department of Education

Release Date: 03/14/2006
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711, higuchi.dean@epa.gov

(03/14/06) HONOLULU – A recent agreement between the U.S. EPA and the Hawai’i Department of Education requires the state agency to close 320 large capacity cesspools in order to comply with federal Safe Drinking Water Act regulations.

The agreement covers cesspool closures at state-owned schools on every island throughout the state. The Department of Education will install on-site treatment systems at most of the schools and, where possible, will connect to the sewer system.

“By agreeing to close over 300 large capacity cesspools, the Hawai’i DOE will significantly reduce the amount of untreated waste released into the environment statewide,” said Alexis Strauss, director of the water division in the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Office. “Although many are working to replace their large cesspools, there are still those who need to provide compliance plans and schedules, and close large capacity cesspools promptly.”

Cesspools discharge raw sewage into the ground which can result in disease-causing pathogens and other contaminants, including nitrates, contaminating groundwater, streams and the ocean. In Hawai’i, cesspools are commonly used for wastewater disposal.

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement with the EPA and appreciate their efforts in working with us towards this important undertaking. We are now ready to move forward to implement this agreement to protect Hawaii's environment,” said Randy Moore, Acting Assistant Superintendent for Business Services for the DOE.

A large capacity cesspool discharges untreated sewage from a multiple dwelling, or non-residential facility serving 20 or more people in a day. Regulations do not apply to single family homes connected to their own individual cesspool. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s Underground Injection Program, large capacity cesspools are prohibited as of April, 2005. It is estimated that more than 4000 cesspools across the state are subject to the closure requirement.

This consent agreement with the Department of Education is one of the last agreements to be reached with federal and state agencies in Hawai’i. More than 854 cesspools are covered by 10 agreements addressing cesspools statewide. Several additional agreements have included penalties. Compliance plans and schedules have been received from 740 property owners for closure of their cesspools. Failure to comply with the ban could result in enforcement actions and penalties.

For more information please go to: http://epa.gov/region9/water/groundwater/uic-hicesspools.html

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