The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the closure of two illegal large capacity cesspools at the Wailuku Professional Plaza in Hilo and one cesspool at the SKS Management LLC self-storage business in Kailua-Kona, according to an EPA news release Thursday.

Big Island locator map

The federal agency has also imposed a combined fine of $71,780 on the businesses. The EPA banned large-capacity cesspools in 2005.

The Wailuku Professional Plaza is located about 100 feet from the Wailuku River in Hilo. In July 2021, EPA conducted an inspection of the plaza and found two illegal cesspools serving the multi-tenant commercial office building. Wailuku Professional Plaza, which owns and operates the building, settled the case, agreeing to close the illegal cesspools and pay a $43,000 penalty on May 4, according to the EPA.

The WAI Cesspool Priorities Map
The WAI cesspool priorities map shows 88,000 cesspools in Hawaii. WAI

EPA also found that the Power Self Storage – Kuakini facility in Kailua-Kona has a restroom served by a large capacity cesspool, the release says. SKS Management LLC, which operates the facility, settled the case, agreeing to pay a $28,780 penalty and close the cesspool by Sept. 1, 2023.

Cesspools collect and release untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams, and the ocean.

Since the 2005 federal ban took effect, more than 3,750 large capacity cesspools in Hawaii have been closed. Hundreds remain in operation. Cesspools are used more widely in Hawaii than any other state and pose a unique challenge as groundwater provides 95% of the islands’ water supply, according to the EPA.

There are approximately 88,000 cesspools in Hawaii, most of them small capacity, the agency says. EPA Region 9 has entered into consent agreements with a number of regulated entities in Hawaii, including public agencies, businesses and residential facilities, to address violations of the large-capacity cesspool requirements.

To encourage the removal of cesspools, the EPA provides penalty mitigation and other incentives for companies that proactively deal with the problem on their property. Information on how to self-disclose potential large-capacity cesspool violations is available at: https://www.epa.gov/compliance/epas-edisclosure.

For more information on cesspools in Hawaii, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/uic/cesspools-hawaii.

An Important Note

If you consider nonprofit, independent news to be an essential service that helps keep our community informed, please include Civil Beat among your year-end contributions.

And for those who can, consider supporting us with a monthly gift, which helps keep our content free for those who need it most.

This year, we are making it our goal to raise $225,000 in reader support by December 31, to support our news coverage statewide and throughout the Pacific. Are you ready to help us continue this work?

About the Author