State en Roz Baker
State en Roz Baker
State en Roz Baker

HONOLULU – Sen. Roz Baker (District 6 – South and West Maui) has asked the Department of Health (DOH) to hold public hearings on the neighbor islands on proposed wastewater management policy changes, and to provide more time for meaningful comment. The changes will affect more than 77,000 homeowners on the neighbor islands and 11,000 on Oahu.

The proposed changes include prohibiting the installation of new cesspools and requiring sewer connections or upgrades of existing cesspools to a septic tank within 180 days after the sale of a property.

“There is no doubt in my mind that septic tanks are better than cesspools,” said Sen. Baker. “However, the department should have been working with the community on a plan that could be supported. I also greatly appreciate DOH wanting to protect groundwater resources by reducing the number of cesspools in the state, but using the administrative rules process rather than actively engaging the affected communities is not the best approach. I would prefer a carrot rather than stick approach to give our community members a genuine voice in any proposal.”

DOH has scheduled a public hearing for Thursday, October 2 on Oahu where only about 12 percent of all cesspools in the state are located. Video conferencing is also being made available on Kauai, Hawaii Island and Maui. Residents affected on Molokai, which has over 1,400 cesspools, will not be able to participate in the video conferencing.

In a letter addressed to Director Linda M. Rosen, she has asked DOH to hold public hearings on all neighbor islands, especially on Molokai where access to video conferencing is not available. (letter attached)

“There could be a lot of unintended consequences with these policy changes,” said Sen. Baker, “such as problems with meeting the 180-day septic tank connection time frame or even being able to connect at all. The department should consider holding more public meetings and provide more time for meaningful comment from neighbor island communities.”

Sen. Baker’s Maui colleagues also support the call for public hearings on the neighbor islands. “I agree that the department should take the time to meet with and hear from the neighbor island and rural communities that will be impacted the most by this policy change,” said Sen. Gilbert Keith-Agaran (District 5 – Wailuku, Waihee, Kahului).

“The DOH is making a flawed assumption with this proposal, that each homeowner has easy access to a public sewer system,” added Sen. J. Kalani English (District 7 – Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe). Many residents in the small and rural communities I represent do not have access to public sewer systems.  In fact, the majority of my district does not have any public sewer systems at all. This proposal will impact them the most and they deserve public hearings and enough time to ask questions and share their concerns. Improvements to our wastewater system are necessary, but let’s make sure it’s done right by giving our communities, especially those who will be most affected, an opportunity to provide input. I call on the DOH to conduct public hearings on these proposed rules in Hana, Haiku, Kula, Paia, Molokai and Lanai.”

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