EPA Settlement Results in Closure of Four Big Island Cesspools
American Savings Bank will close illegal former Kealakekua Branch cesspool, undertake supplemental environmental project to close three additional cesspools
HONOLULU – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken an enforcement action against American Savings Bank to close an illegal, pollution-causing large capacity cesspool at the bank’s former branch in Kealakekua. The settlement includes a penalty of $30,427 for having operated an illegal large capacity cesspool at the branch, and a supplemental environmental project that requires the conversion of three single-family home cesspools to state-approved wastewater systems.
“As part of our enforcement action against American Savings Bank, a supplemental environmental project will be included in addition to the penalty,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “These projects are targeted cesspool closures that will provide localized benefits to communities and further protect the Big Island’s groundwater and surface water from pollution found in cesspools.”
As part of the supplemental environmental project, American Savings Bank will select no fewer than three Big Island single-family homes for closure of their cesspools. These homes must be located in areas where the median household income is less than $75,000 per year, in an area with a high density of cesspools, and in close proximity to surface or coastal waters. American Savings Bank will replace the cesspools with state-approved, individual wastewater systems by the end of 2024.
Cesspools collect and release untreated sewage directly into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater and migrate to nearby streams and the ocean. The EPA banned large capacity cesspools in 2005. Since the federal ban, more than 3,750 large capacity cesspools in Hawaii have been closed; however, hundreds remain in operation. The State of Hawai‘i has banned new cesspools and passed a law requiring all cesspools be converted by 2050. Cesspools are used more widely in Hawaii than any other state and pose a unique challenge, as groundwater provides 95% of all water supply for the islands.
Supplemental Environmental Projects
A supplemental environmental project is an environmentally beneficial project or activity that is not required by law, but that a party agrees to undertake as part of the settlement of an enforcement action. Such projects or activities go beyond what could legally be required of the defendant, and secure environmental and/or public health benefits in addition to those achieved by compliance with the law.
The settlement is subject to a 30-day comment period. For more information and to submit comments.
Information on how to self-disclose potential large-capacity cesspool violations is available here.
Learn more about the federal ban and definition of a large-capacity cesspool.
Learn more about cesspools in Hawai’i.