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EPA fines DLNR over $100,000 for illegal Kauaʻi cesspool

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has levied a hefty fine against the state department responsible for protecting Hawaiʻi’s natural resources.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources must pay $105,543 due to an illegal large-capacity cesspool at Kamokila Hawaiian Village in Kapaʻa on Kauaʻi. The attraction was forced to close two years ago.

In addition to the fine, Amy Miller from the EPA says the DLNR must conduct an audit of the 1.3 million acres they manage.

"So the audit consists of three phases. The first phase focusing on Oʻahu, the second phase will focus on Kauaʻi, Maui and Molokaʻi, and the third phase will focus on the Big Island," Miller said.

"They will be going through a process of developing a list of targeted properties and then they will go out and inspect them," she told HPR. "After completing an inspection, they will develop a closure plan for those that have large-capacity cesspools with a schedule, so this is going to take some time to complete."

Miller says the inspection phase will probably be completed within a year and a half.

The audit is meant to safeguard public health, protect groundwater and help DLNR deal with illegal cesspools.

The EPA banned large cesspools under the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2005. Since then, more than 3,000 large cesspools in Hawaiʻi have closed, but about 1,600 remain. Hawaiʻi uses more cesspools than any other state.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Aug. 9, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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