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Source: US Environment Protection Agency

News Releases from Region 09

12/16/2020

Contact Information: 

For Immediate Release: December 16, 2020
Media Contact: Alejandro Diaz, 808-541-2711, diaz.alejandro@epa.gov

EPA orders the closure of cesspool in Kauai to protect water resources

HONOLULU — The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken an enforcement action against Smoky Mountain Helicopters, Inc. (dba Maverick Helicopter) to close a large capacity cesspool (LCC) and collect $45,000 in fines. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act EPA banned LCCs, which can pollute water resources, in 2005.

“Island water resources are vulnerable to pollution from large capacity cesspools,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “EPA will continue our efforts to close the remaining such systems on Kauai.”

 In 2018, EPA inspectors found an LCC associated with Smoky Mountain Helicopters at a leased airport hangar at the Port Allen Airport in Kauai. Smoky Mountain Helicopters operated the cesspool, which serviced the restroom in the airport’s maintenance hangar. Under the EPA compliance order announced today, Smoky Mountain Helicopters has agreed to close the cesspool by no later than April 30, 2021. 

EPA is authorized to issue compliance orders and/or assess penalties to violators of the Safe Drinking Water Act’s LCC regulations. However, to encourage regulated entities to voluntarily discover, promptly disclose, and expeditiously close these pollution-causing systems, EPA provide penalty mitigation and other incentives for companies that self-police, disclose, correct and prevent violations. Information on how to self-disclose potential large-capacity cesspool violations is available at: https://www.epa.gov/compliance/epas-edisclosure.

Since the 2005 federal ban, more than 3,600 of the LCCs in Hawaii have been closed; however, many hundreds remain in operation. These cesspools collect and discharge untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams, and the ocean. Groundwater provides 95% of all domestic water in Hawaii, where cesspools are used more widely than in any other state.

In 2017, the State of Hawaii passed Act 125, which requires the replacement of all cesspools by 2050. It is estimated that there are approximately 88,000 cesspools in Hawaii. A state income tax credit is available for upgrading qualified cesspools to a septic system or aerobic treatment unit or connecting them to a sewer. The tax credit ends on December 31, 2020.

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

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

For more information on this agreement, visit the following websites: https://www.epa.gov/uic/proposed-settlement-sdwa-administrative-penalty-smoky-mountain-helicopters-inc-dba-maverick.

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