About The Kaʻū Calendar

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Wednesday, August 30, 2023

A small footprint individual wastewater system that could go next to Pāhala houses currently
served by illegal gang cesspools. Photo from County of Hawai'i

INDIVIDUAL WASTEWATER SYSTEMS AND SEWER TREATMENT PLANT OPTIONS were presented at a public meeting in Nā‘ālehu on Aug. 22. Another meeting in the coming month is planned for Pāhala, date to be determined. County of Hawai‘i Department of Environmental Management Deputy Director Brenda Iokepa-Moses led the meeting, presenting several solutions for closing down gang cesspools in Pāhala and Nā‘ālehu. The gang cesspools are leftovers from old sugar plantation housing days and have been illegal since 2005. With fines looming from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Iokepa-Moses said that the gang cesspools must shut down by 2026 in Pāhala and the end of 2027 in Nā‘ālehu.

Talking about Pāhala, she said a sewage treatment plant remains an option and that land was still possibly available where Maile Street turns from the Norfolk Tree lined lane into the village. She described the option of a sewage treatment plant as being more expensive to the county than individual wastewater septic systems in each yard. She noted that a sewage treatment plant would likely require new sewer pipes and digging up the roads in the town and would take a lot longer, probably missing the deadline the EPA has imposed.
    She said the county already has plans for new collection lines should a sewage treatment plant be approved. However, she said, “This will have effects in the community right? We’re going to have to dig up roads to lay lateral lines down. Some of you have laterals in front of your homes the plantation laid before they left.”
    Iokepa-Moses said, that with a sewer, the plan would be to "have a direct collect from our home to the line in front of. your house to the sewer collection. You don’t want county government people walking through property and trying to maintain the most direct line.”
    For the sewage treatment plant option, the EPA would have to agree to the time it would take to build it and government has promised to pay for the cost of all options, with no cost to the homeowners.
    Iokepa-Moses explained that individual wastewater systems - septic tanks - for each yard could be done more quickly at less cost and would not use the existing sewer lines from people’s homes that are probably too fragile for future use. She acknowledged that individual wastewater systems could require setbacks from trees and property lines and possible removal of some improvements in yards, like rock walls and other structures but that the county would replace. She said that leach fields would be replanted with grass.
    Several options for building individual wastewater systems were presented including the county hiring contractors for all the work and maintaining the systems, leaving the homeowners with monthly sewer fees, currently $52.
    Another was for the county to engineer the systems and give vouchers to the homeowners to hire their own contractors. The county would oversee the work to make sure it complies. The homeowner would not be responsible for sewer fees but would be responsible for pumping the septic tank an average of three to five to ten years and otherwise inspecting it and maintaining it.
    Iokepa-Moses said that all options except for the voucher program would be “a heavy lift.” With the voucher program, “We will partner with you but mainly the homeowners will be able to steer that boat from the contractors and what they’re doing on the property.”
    Homeowners not tied to the old sugar plantation cesspools who have their own cesspools are required to switch over to sewer or septic by 2050. The county said it would pay for those with cesspools in the area of the old gang cesspool collection system to convert, whether it be to a new sewer system or individual wastewater system. One speaker asked whether it was fair to give free septic or sewer to those with individual cesspools who live in the area and not pay for cesspool conversions for the rest of the community. Iokepa-Moses said that future funding would be sought to help those outside the old gang cesspool area.
    County of Hawai‘i Closing the gang cesspools will bring the county into compliance with the Federal Safe Drinking Act or face EPA fines of $300 to $1000 a day. The county is also working on an environmental information document for the project for the EPA, which is to show economic and other impacts on the community and environment connected to the options. Listen to an audio of the meeting at https://tinyurl.com/2s3b5895.

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at kaucalendar.com, in the mail and on stands.

THE ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS AND COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS are  asking for help from the Pāhala community to protect the integrity and funding for maintenance and repair of the Pā‘au‘au Flood Channels. The Flood Channels include a levee that keeps floodwaters out of the town of Pāhala. Pā‘au‘au Gulch skirts the Volcano side of Pāhala village
Pā‘au‘au Gulch, which skirts Pāhala, is often the scene of rushing waters, with adjacent homes protected by Army Corps of Engineers levee, walls and hardened slopes. A public meeting at Pāhala Community Center discussed issues and further
 assistance to prevent flooding. Photo by Julia Neal
and runs under the bridge at Highway 11. The Army Corps of Engineers states that its levee, walls and boulder slopes help protect approximately 273 homes in the area. A flood in 2001 destroyed the bridge at Highway 11 but no homes were lost. 
     According to officials speaking at a public meeting in Pāhala on Aug. 9, homeowners along the gulch have made personal additions and improvements that encroach on the flood walls. Consequently, the federal government is unable to guarantee money for repairs and money to replace the levee should a flood damage it. Officials said they plan to communicate with homeowners to encourage them to take their structures, animals, trees and other impediments away from the flood wall. Due to encroachments, the levee and walls have failed to meet standards to allow federal funding to keep them up and repair them since 2008.

5,000 in the mail, 2,500 on the street. See www.kaucalendar.com