WAILUKU – The state Department of Health has scheduled public informational meetings in Maui County to discuss proposed administrative rules on cesspools and wastewater systems, Council Chair Gladys Baisa announced today.
DOH will conduct an informational meeting on Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chamber, Baisa said.
The proposed amendments to the Hawaii Administrative Rules would prohibit new cesspools and phase out existing ones through a mandatory upgrade to a septic system or other wastewater system upon sale of property. A document with the proposed revisions is available at mauicounty.us/cesspools.
A public hearing is scheduled for tomorrow on Oahu at 10:30 a.m., with videoconferencing to the Neighbor Islands. Maui residents can monitor the meeting at the Wailuku Health Center at 121 Mahalani St.
Baisa requested that DOH conduct a live meeting on Maui because of the rules’ potential impact here. In a press release, DOH estimated there are more than 12,000 cesspools on this island.
“I know a lot of residents, especially Upcountry, will be affected by the proposed cesspool regulations,” Baisa said. “I urge affected residents to attend the Oct. 15 meeting, as the rule change may cause a significant financial burden to homeowners.”
On Sept. 26, Baisa submitted a letter to state Health Director Linda Rosen to offer comments on the draft rule amendments. Baisa urged the department to allow homeowners at least a year to complete any mandatory conversion to a new wastewater system. The DOH has proposed a 180-day time frame. “Providing for an extended time frame to complete the required upgrades would impose less of a burden on Maui County’s homeowners and promote compliance with the rule,” Baisa said.
Baisa suggested exempting low-risk cesspools from the upgrade requirement and urged state officials to consider factors like a cesspool’s proximity to the ocean and drinking water sources, soil condition and lot size.
“I support the intent to protect the quality of Hawaii’s nearshore waters and drinking water supplies,” Baisa said. “However, there is no justification to require elimination of cesspools that present little to no risk of contaminating our water supply or the ocean.”
In her letter, Baisa noted the cesspool upgrade requirement should not apply to transfers between family members and that the state should provide funding support to homeowners when upgrades are required. The cost of each cesspool upgrade is estimated at $20,000.
“I urge the state to consider ways to mitigate financial hardship,” Baisa said. “I understand the state’s intent to upgrade our wastewater systems, but invite them to strongly take a look at the unintended impacts this would cause across the state, especially in rural districts.” An informational meeting will also be held on Molokai on Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. at the Kaunakakai Gymnasium. There are 1,400 cesspools on Molokai.
Written comments will be accepted by DOH at the informational meetings.
Baisa, Mayor Alan Arakawa, Planning Director Will Spence and Water Director Dave Taylor met with Environmental Health Administrator Gary Gill and other state health officials at the County Building last month. Baisa stressed the importance of meetings in Maui County and approved DOH’s use of the Council Chamber.
For more information on the meetings, contact DOH’s Wastewater Branch in Honolulu at (808) 586-4294.