EPA requires U.S. Forest Service to close over 60 cesspools in California’s national forests
SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to close 62 campground pit toilets, considered to be large capacity cesspools, at seven national forests across California. USFS, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will have until December 2020 to comply with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act’s ban on large capacity cesspools (LCC).
“EPA and the U.S. Forest Service are taking important steps to close these banned cesspools,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “Our goal is to protect the health of those using public lands and the quality of California’s limited water resources.”
“We are proud to partner with EPA to address this serious concern. Taking corrective action to close the improper waste disposal facilities located on national forest lands in California is necessary for the health and safety of the forest ecosystem and surrounding environment, employees and forest visitors,” said USFS Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore. “National forest lands can and do make a difference in the quantity and quality of California’s water supply.”
USFS’ Pacific Southwest Region disclosed that it continued to use LCCs despite a 2005 ban under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s Underground Injection Control program.
The agency will be closing 62 pit toilets in seven national forests across California: Angeles, Eldorado, Inyo, Los Padres, Plumas, Sierra, and Tahoe National Forests.
USFS has estimated the costs to close and remove the non-compliant systems and install new toilets is over $1.1 million dollars. The agreement also includes specific reporting requirements and allows for penalties should USFS fail to meet deadlines.
Cesspools collect and discharge waterborne pollutants like untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens can contaminate groundwater, streams, and the ocean.
For more information on the LCC ban and definition of a LCC, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/uic/large-capacity-cesspools.