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EPA files complaint against Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. for failing to close large capacity cesspools

Release Date: 10/02/2007
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711, higuchi.dean@epa.gov

(10/02/07) HONOLULU – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has filed a complaint against Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. for failing to close its three large capacity cesspools by April 2005 at its Hilo facility on the Big Island.

“EPA remains committed to ensuring proper closure of large capacity cesspools to protect Hawaii’s water resources,” said Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA’s water division for the Pacific Southwest region. “While we continue to pursue violators, it is unfortunate that companies such as Mauna Loa require this level of oversight to fully comply with EPA’s regulations.”

Mauna Loa, a subsidiary of the Hershey Company, owns and operates a macadamia nut processing plant and a visitor center. The EPA notified the company in July 2004 of the April 2005 deadline to close its large capacity cesspools. An EPA contractor inspected the facility in October 2005 and was told closure plans were being developed. In August 2006, the EPA inspected the facility again and found the three large capacity cesspools were still in use.

The EPA’s complaint proposes a penalty of up to $157,500 for the company’s failure to close its cesspools by April 2005. The proposed penalty is based on the company’s violations and any financial gains Mauna Loa obtained from not closing the cesspools by the April deadline.

In August 2007, the company completed work to close and replace its large capacity cesspools with an approved wastewater system. Mauna Loa’s wastewater facility has the capacity to serve around 700-800 people per day.

The case was originally referred to the EPA by the Hawaii Department of Health’s Wastewater Branch.

A large capacity cesspool discharges untreated sewage from multiple dwellings, or a non-residential location that serves 20 or more people per day. The regulations, which prohibit large capacity cesspools as of April 2005, do not apply to single-family homes connected to their own individual cesspools.

Cesspools discharge raw sewage into the ground, which results in disease-causing pathogens and other contaminants – such as nitrates – polluting groundwater, streams and the ocean. Historically, cesspools were used more widely in Hawai’i than in any other state, many owned by county, state, and federal agencies. However, numerous restaurants, hotels, office complexes, and multiple dwellings, such as duplexes, ohana homes, apartments and condominiums also have cesspools.

For more information on the large capacity cesspool ban, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region09/hicesspools. For more information about the public notice and comment period, go to: http://www.epa.gov/region9/water/drinking/dw-enforcement.html.
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