Assessment of Cesspools on Hawaiian Home Lands

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A major deadline requiring transition from cesspools to modern sewer systems throughout the state is decades away, but the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) is launching an early assessment to garner information on the usage of cesspools on Hawaiian Home Lands.

Gov. David Ige signed Act 125 into law in 2017, requiring the upgrade, conversion, or sewer connection of all cesspools in the state before Jan. 1, 2050. Officials approximate that there are approximately 88,000 cesspools statewide, with an estimated 2,500 of those on Hawaiian Home Lands.

To address these out-of-date sewer systems, DHHL jump-started its three-decade initiative by hiring contractors Fukunaga and Associates and Hawaiʻi Engineering Group, to conduct an initial year-long evaluation to determine the number of Hawaiian Homestead lots still utilizing a cesspool or who may have a cesspool on their homestead lot that has not been properly taken out of service.

As part of the analysis, the contractors will be identifying active or inactive cesspools on Hawaiian Home Lands throughout the state, as well as locating the physical connections between the dwelling units and the cesspool.

DHHL is also requesting that lessees aid the department in its information gathering by completing an online assessment form identifying current sewer system implementation on their property. The collective information will be critical when evaluating and budgeting for potential solutions that may include connecting the home to an existing municipal sewer system or alternative wastewater management system.

Oʻahu lessees in Nānākuli, Waiʻanae, and Waimānalo, as well as lessees in Homestead communities on the neighbor islands, will soon receive a letter via postal mail to advise them of when DHHL contractors will conduct visual, ground, and aerial survey work in their subdivisions. The letter will also request lessee cooperation through an online assessment form (the link will be provided with the letter).

Cesspools are shallow underground systems used to dispose of untreated sanitary waste. The systems vary but largely consist of a concrete cylinder that has an open bottom and may include perforated sides. These systems are used to collect and then drain out sewage from toilets, sinks, and washing machines. The discharge of untreated waste into a cesspool can have a variety of negative potential impacts on human health, including the contamination of drinking water and probable damage to land or aquatic ecosystems.