HONOLULU (AP) — The owner and landlord of a Kauai restaurant paid a fine of more than $47,000 for using two large cesspools long after they were forced to close by federal regulations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday.
After shutting down the two cesspools, Brennecke's Beach Broiler, in the popular tourist destination of Poipu, paid more than $1.3 million to connect the establishment — and nearby public beach park restrooms — to a sewer line.
Federal environmental officials commended restaurant owner Bob French for linking the Poipu Beach Park restrooms to the sewer line he built, at a cost of half a million dollars.
"We appreciate the initiative taken by Brennecke's to provide beachgoers with improved wastewater treatment at the Poipu Beach Park," said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA's regional administrator said in a statement. "EPA will continue to pursue violators who fail to close their large cesspools to protect Hawaii's vital coastal water resources."
A large capacity cesspool discharges untreated sewage from buildings serving 20 or more people per day. EPA regulations required existing large cesspools to close in 2005 and prohibited new construction after 2000.
French said he began looking for alternatives to the cesspools as soon as the regulations changed. But he said it took years to obtain easements, conduct an environmental study and build a 1,200-foot line connecting the property to a sewer pipe.
Complicating matters, a Marriott resort blocks off the nearest sewer line connecting to a treatment plant. French said 1,000 feet of the line runs up to the Marriott property, and another 200 feet is inside that property.
"No, I was not happy. But you kind of get caught between a rock and a hard place. You just can't fight the federal government," he said. "You might as well give up and close your business down. But I'm not one of those people."
Connecting Poipu Beach Park restrooms to the sewer line delayed completion by 18 months, French said.
Sewage from the beach park restrooms flowed into a septic tank where it only received basic treatment. The EPA said there was a risk that beach park restrooms' sewage would contaminate coastal waters.
French said he's happy to be done with the process and move on.
The landlord, Poipu Inn Inc., paid $800,000 of the total cost. French said he paid the rest and the fine.
The EPA says cesspools are more widely used in Hawaii than any other state. They discharge raw sewage into the ground, which can pollute groundwater, streams and the ocean.