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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 11:35 a.m., Monday, May 19, 2008

Mauna Loa Macadamia fined $75K for cesspool violation

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. was fined $75,000 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to meet a 2005 deadline to close large-capacity cesspools at its Hilo facility.

The EPA said the company was notified in July 2004 of the April 2005 deadline to close its large capacity cesspools. In October 2005, EPA inspectors were informed of cesspool closure plans. A year later, the facility was inspected again and the three large capacity cesspools were still in use and the company recently settled the case.

"We are pleased to announce this settlement and inform other companies of the necessity to fully comply with EPA's regulations," said Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA's water division for the Pacific Southwest region. "Proper closure of large capacity cesspools, through our ongoing compliance and enforcement efforts, results in protection of Hawaii's groundwater and coastal environment."

A subsidiary of the Hershey Company, Mauna Loa owned and operated a macadamia nut processing plant and a visitor center in Hilo. In August 2007, more than two years after EPA's regulatory deadline, the company completed work to close and replace its large capacity cesspools with a state-approved wastewater system. Mauna Loa's wastewater facility has the capacity to serve more than 1000 people per day.

A large capacity cesspool discharges untreated sewage from multiple dwellings, or a non-residential location that serves 20 or more people per day. The regulations, which prohibit large capacity cesspools as of April 2005, do not apply to single-family homes connected to their own individual cesspools.

Cesspools discharge raw sewage into the ground, which results in disease-causing pathogens and other contaminants such as nitrates polluting groundwater, streams and the ocean. Historically, cesspools were used more widely in Hawai'i than in any other state. Many cesspools were owned by county, state, and federal agencies. However, numerous restaurants, hotels, office complexes, and multiple dwellings, such as duplexes, ohana homes, apartments and condominiums also have cesspools.

For more information on EPA's large capacity cesspool ban on the Web, go to www.epa.gov/region09/hicesspools.