Maui News

Proposal to Ban New Cesspools up for Review on Maui

August 18, 2015, 2:54 PM HST
* Updated August 18, 2:55 PM
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Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility in Kanahā, Maui. Photo May 2015 by Wendy Osher.

Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility in Kanahā, Maui. Photo May 2015 by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

The state Department of Health is proposing amendments to current laws, that if passed would prohibit the construction of new cesspools in Hawaiʻi.  Department officials say the amendments are designed to protect public health and preserve natural resources.

The proposed changes will be discussed at a meeting on Maui tonight (Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015) at 5 p.m. at the Kula Community Center; and on Molokaʻi on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, at 6:30 p.m. at the Kaunakakai Gym.

In June, Governor David Ige singed a bill into law, creating Act 120, which provides a temporary income tax credit for the cost of upgrading or converting a qualified cesspool to a septic system or an aerobic treatment unit system or connecting to a sewer system.

Under Act 120, a taxpayer may apply for a tax credit of up to $10,000 for each qualified cesspool.  The state DOH notes that the tax credit is available for five years, starting on Jan. 1, 2016 and ending on Dec. 31, 2020.


According to the DOH, there are almost 90,000 cesspools in the State, with nearly 50,000 located on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, almost 14,000 on Kauaʻi, more than 12,000 on Maui, over 11,000 on Oʻahu and more than 1,400 on Molokaʻi.


According to the DOH, “there are over 6,600 cesspools that are located near a drinking water source or within 200 feet of the shoreline, a wetland, or a perennial stream channel in Hawaiʻi that may qualify for an upgrade tax credit.”

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.”

In June, Maui’s state senatorial delegation praised the passage and signing of the cesspool tax credit measure saying it will provide financial support for a waste disposal issue that the state and the counties have been struggling with for years.


As the Senator whose majority of constituents reside in rural communities, Senate Majority Leader, J Kalani English, said there’s a lack of waste disposal systems within his district, and that installation in the past has been cost prohibitive. Upon passage of the measure, Sen. English released a statement saying the new incentive will help the communities maintain the integrity of nearby waters.

A concerned Upcountry resident wrote a letter to state officials saying, “I hope to sell my home in the near future and move to a larger lot, but I will be unable to sell my house do to the fact that anyone buying it will not be able to remodel it without the extra burden of replacing the septic system.  This makes my property a pariah, thus unsellable for a fair market price.”

Residents wishing to weigh in on the issue are invited to the upcoming meetings to express their concerns.

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