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Pflueger backs out, EPA levies fine

by Amanda C. Gregg THE GARDEN ISLAND

Nearly five months after James Pflueger agreed to pay a $7.5 million settlement for Clean Water Act violations on his property, the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday announced it’s tacking on a $23,500 fine for continued violations.

“We think it’s inappropriate,” said Wesley Ching, Pflueger’s attorney.

A consent decree allowed for Pflueger to pay a fine for backing out of replacing cesspools and failing to hire staff to monitor Pila’a improvements, for which he has already paid $221,000, Ching said.

But the additional $23,500 fine is for failing to comply with those two issues before the date he backed out, Dean Higuchi, EPA spokesman said.

The decree, which came out of the settlement in June, is for illegal grading on Pflueger’s 378 acres of coastal property at Pila’a.

The county is in accordance with the EPA, Mary Daubert, county spokeswoman, said.

Pflueger’s first missed deadline was in July for failing to hire a project manager. His second was for failing to begin a project to replace cesspools -wells for sewage disposal -at Kalihiwai Stream and Bay.

“Generally there is not an issue with the water quality,” Higuchi said. “But the aim of the project was to try to replace the cesspools to ensure water quality would not be impacted, to somewhat prevent any potential water quality issues from arising.”

Ching said in a prepared statement that Pflueger received a letter Monday from EPA demanding penalties for construction schedule delays at Pila’a.

Honoring the cesspool project would have ensured sewage wouldn’t leach into the surrounding water, Higuchi said.

Now that the project is abandoned, Higuchi is not sure whether any entity will remove the cesspools.

The EPA will continue to monitor Pflueger to ensure he upholds the remainder of the agreement, which includes progress at the Pila’a property and submitting reports within 30 days after the end of each quarter on any construction or compliance measures, status of permit applications and

maintenance, Higuchi said.

The Pila’a settlement has nothing to do with lawsuits related to the dam that burst on Pflueger’s Ka loko Reservoir property March 14, plaintiff attorney Rick Fried said. Fried represents plaintiffs suing Pflueger for several reasons, including wrongful death. When Pflueger’s dam burst, seven people were killed as an estimated 400 millions gallons of water rushed toward Kilauea Bay.

Pflueger, a well-known auto dealer, had cleared land near the Ka loko Reservoir without a permit, which resulted in the record settlement. Part of the settlement stipulated that Pflueger stabilize the area where he did the illegal grading .

Amanda C. Gregg, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or [email protected].

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