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EPA requires Forest Service to close 15 cesspools in Arizona’s national forests

07/16/2019
Contact Information: 
Margot Perez-Sullivan (perezsullivan.margot@epa.gov)
415-947-4149

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service to close 15 campground pit toilets, considered to be large capacity cesspools, at four Arizona national forests. The Forest Service will have until December 2024 to comply with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act’s ban on large capacity cesspools (LCCs).

“Closing cesspools in national forests is important to protect the drinking water resources and the health of those using our public lands,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “We are pleased that the Forest Service helped to identify the cesspools and committed to address these violations.”

“We are grateful to work with the EPA in addressing this issue. Efforts like this enable us to be better stewards of the land while prioritizing the safety of local communities which rely on healthy and resilient landscapes and watersheds on national forest lands,” said USDA Forest Service Southwestern Regional Forester Cal Joyner. “Healthy landscapes and watersheds on national forest lands are critical in providing for local livelihoods and valued products.”

The Forest Service’s Southwestern Region disclosed that it continued to use LCCs despite a 2005 ban under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s Underground Injection Control program. The four Arizona forests that will remove the noncompliant systems are Apache-Sitgreaves, Tonto, Coconino and Kaibab. The agreement also includes specific reporting requirements and allows for penalties should the Forest Service fail to meet deadlines.

Cesspools collect and discharge waterborne pollutants like untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean.

The settlement is subject to a 30-day comment period before becoming final. For more information and to submit comments, please visit:  https://www.epa.gov/uic/usda-forest-service-southwestern-region-proposed-safe-drinking-water-act-underground-injection

For more information on the LCC ban and definition of an LCC, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/uic/large-capacity-cesspools.

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