EPA enforces ban on Army’s cesspools on Oahu and Hawaii Island

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday an agreement with the U.S. Army to close four illegal large capacity cesspools on Oahu and eight on Hawaii Island.

The Army will pay a $100,000 fine, the first time EPA has imposed a civil penalty against a federal government facility for operating banned cesspools.

EPA found that the Army continued to use the cesspools despite a 2005 ban under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act’s Underground Injection Control program. The Army had failed to close three large capacity cesspools at Wheeler Army Airfield and one at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, as well as eight on Hawaii Island at the Pohakuloa Training area and the Kilauea Military Camp.

As a result of EPA’s enforcement action, the Army has closed one cesspool, and replaced two others at Wheeler Army Airfield and another at Schofield Barracks with approved wastewater treatment systems. Under the settlement agreement, the Army must also close or replace all eight of the large capacity cesspools still in use on Hawaii Island.

“The convening of the International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu this week serves as a reminder of why EPA is focused on shutting down all large capacity cesspools,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our goal is to protect Hawaii’s coastal waters.”

Cesspools collect and discharge untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean. They are used more widely in Hawaii than any other state. Throughout Hawaii, over 3,000 large capacity cesspools have been closed since the 2005 ban, many through voluntary compliance. The EPA regulations do not apply to single-family homes connected to their own individual cesspools.

For more information on the large capacity cesspool ban, click here.

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