Two Hawaii resorts and one nightclub must pay over $300,000 in fines to the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to close large-capacity cesspools, according to a press release from the federal agency.

The Travaasa Hotel Hana Resort in Hana, Maui, owes $187,500; Vacation Inns International on Oahu’s North Shore owes $40,000; and Shaka’s on the Big Island must pay $82,425.

Screenshot of the Travaasa Hotel Hana Resort's website. The resort in Maui must pay $187,500 for failing to close large-capacity cesspools.

Screenshot of the Travaasa Hotel Hana Resort’s website. The resort in Maui must pay $187,500 for failing to close large-capacity cesspools.

In addition, the EPA has filed a civil complaint against Waimanalo property owner Keith Ward for two cesspools at Serg’s Mexican Kitchen restaurant.

“Cesspools serving resorts and restaurants can pollute the groundwater and nearshore waters where people swim,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest in a statement. “EPA is committed to protecting Hawaii’s precious water resources by closing down all large capacity cesspools.”

Hawaii has more cesspools than any other state despite their negative environmental impacts. According ot the EPA, “disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals (from cesspools) can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean.”

Here’s more info from the EPA’s press release:

The Travaasa Hotel Hana Resort (formerly known as the Hotel Hana Maui) has voluntarily closed a number of its cesspools over the last three years, and has committed to closing its remaining 14 large capacity cesspools within the next two years, replacing them with state-approved septic systems. The same is true for Vacation Inns International (also known as Backpackers Hawaii Vacation Inn) and its six cesspools, located on the North Shore of Oahu, a popular destination for surfers from around the world. Shaka’s Pahoa LLC that operates the Pahoa Café nightclub has closed one cesspool and has another remaining cesspool to close.

The civil complaint against landowner Keith Ward of Waimanalo where two illegal cesspools for Serg’s Mexican Kitchen operates, stems from an EPA inspection in 2011. Mr. Ward allegedly refused to submit a proof of closing for the cesspools that provides service to the restaurant. Serg’s is located in the Waimanalo watershed, targeted by EPA and the State because it is burdened by multiple sources of water pollution.

Throughout the state of Hawaii, over 3,000 large capacity cesspools have been closed, many through voluntary compliance, since the ban was instituted in 2005. Large capacity cesspools include those discharging untreated sewage from multiple residential dwellings, and from non-residential locations that have the capacity to serve 20 or more people per day. The regulations do not apply to single-family homes connected to their own individual cesspools or to non-residential cesspools that do not have the capacity to serve 20 or more people.

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