Public Hearings Granted on Neighbor Island for Cesspool Rule Changes
By Wendy Osher
The Hawaiʻi State Department of Health will hold hearings on Maui and Molokaʻi on proposed rule changes for cesspools. The state had initially scheduled a single hearing on Oʻahu tomorrow with video conferencing available on the neighbor islands, but Maui senators voiced concern that the hearings should include actual visits to the outer islands where thousands of residents and homeowners could be affected.
Under the rule changes, residents would be prohibited from installing new cesspools, and sewer connections or upgrades would be required for existing cesspools to a septic tank within 180 days after the sale of a property.
The Maui hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 15 in the Council Chambers. The Molokaʻi hearing takes place at 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 10 in the Kaunakakai Gym.
State officials say there are more than 12,000 Maui residents and 1,400 residents on Molokaʻi with cesspools. On Oʻahu, there are only 11,000 residents with cesspools out of the 90,000 across the state.
State Health officials say the untreated wastewater from cesspools “can contaminate ground water, drinking water sources, streams and oceans with disease-causing pathogens, algae-causing nutrients, and other harmful substances.”
The Department states that cesspools in Hawaiʻi release as much as 23,700 pounds of nitrogen and nearly 6,000 pounds of phosphorus into the ground each day which authorities say, “can degrade water quality, stimulate undesirable algae growth, and impact our coral reefs.”
Last week, state Senator Roz Baker said, “There is no doubt in my mind that septic tanks are better than cesspools; however, the department should have been working with the community on a plan that could be supported.”
Fellow senator J Kalani English said the proposal could have unintended consequences especially for those in the rural communities that he serves who do not have readily available access to public sewer systems.
The state Department of Health also extended the public comment period on the proposed rule changes until Friday, Oct. 17.
Written comments can be sent to: Wastewater Branch, Environmental Management Division, Hawaiʻi Department of Health, 919 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 309, Honolulu, HI 96814-4920.
In addition to the neighbor island meetings, video conferencing will be available as planned during the 10 a.m. Oʻahu meeting on Thursday, Oct. 2, via the Wailuku Health Center on Mahalani Street, and at the Department of Health BT Conference Room on Imi Kala Street in Wailuku on Maui.