State briefs for March 9

DOH launches mental health hotline

HONOLULU — The state Department of Health launched a new mental health crisis counseling hotline to provide residents support during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The new program is called “Ku Makani – The Hawaii Resiliency Project,” and offers counseling, education and information for people experiencing mental health crises during the pandemic.

The program has trained counselors are on each Hawaii island and serves people who speak multiple language, with staff fluent in Ilokano, Spanish, Hawaiian, Tongan, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Japanese, Palauan and Samoan.

The state Department of Health received a $2.1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to create the program.

Hawaii residents can access the new program by calling Hawaii CARES 1-800-753-6879 and by selecting option No. 1.

Calls can be made between 4 to 9 p.m. on weekdays and state holidays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The service is available for children, teenagers and adults.

DLNR fined for operating cesspools

HONOLULU — The state Department of Land and Natural Resources was fined nearly $222,000 for operating seven large-capacity cesspools on Kauai island.

The Environmental Protection Agency banned the type of cesspool targeted in 2005 because they can pollute water resources and violate the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The cesspools were at Camp Hale Koa, the Waineke Cabins and at a commercial property, the television station reported.

The EPA has taken action before against the department, has collected over $400,000 in fines and closed 74 cesspools.

Cesspools collect and release untreated raw sewage into the ground, where pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams and oceans.

Groundwater provides about 95% of the local water supply in Hawaii, Hawaii News Now reported.

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Since the 2005 EPA ban, more than 3,600 large-capacity cesspools in Hawaii have been closed, but the agency said that hundreds are still in operation.

The DLNR said in a statement that it is working with the EPA to identify and close illegal cesspools still in operation.

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