Maui County Council Chair Gladys Baisa today submitted a letter to state Health Director Linda Rosen to offer comments on DOCKET NO. WWR-1-14, relating to the draft rule amendments on wastewater systems.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the draft rule amendments to Hawaii Administrative Rules, Chapter 11-62, Wastewater Systems.
Under the proposal, Section 11-62-06(r) would state:
Upon sale of any building served by an existing cesspool, the building, no later than 180 days after ownership transfer, shall be connected to a sewer system or, where a sewer connection is not feasible, the cesspool shall be replaced with a new wastewater system, other than a cesspool, that meets the applicable requirements of subchapter 3.
I offer the following comments in regards to this proposed change:
1. Extend time frame: The 180-day time frame should be extended to 365 days.
The proposed time frame of 180 days does not offer sufficient time for most homeowners to coordinate the planning, financing, permitting, and construction of a new wastewater system. 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.
2. Exempt low-risk cesspools: I recommend existing cesspools located in low-risk areas be exempt from the upgrade requirement.
For decades, several of the County’s water supply wells have had cesspools located within Zone B (2-year travel time zone) of the Capture Zone Delineations. These drinking water sources have not experienced contamination that is attributable to cesspools. If these cesspools posed a risk of contaminating water supplies, then impacts would have already occurred.
I support the intent to protect the quality of Hawaii’s nearshore waters and drinking water supplies. However, there is no justification to require elimination of cesspools that present little to no risk of contaminating our water supply or the ocean. The requirement to upgrade an existing cesspool should only apply to cesspools that pose a high risk of contaminating these water sources.
In evaluating a cesspool’s risks, the State should consider the following: (A) the cesspool’s proximity to the ocean; (B) the cesspool’s proximity to drinking water sources; (C) the type of soil condition at the cesspool site; and (D) the size of lot containing the cesspool.
3. Mitigate financial hardship: I recommend that the requirement to upgrade an existing cesspool not apply to transfers between family members and that the State provide funding to homeowners when upgrades are required.
The cost of each upgrade is estimated to be $20,000. The requirement to upgrade wastewater systems upon property transfer will undoubtedly increase the cost of housing within the County and impose undue financial hardship, unless the scope of the rule is limited and subsidization from the State is provided.
One means of mitigation is to state that the upgrade requirement is not triggered by ownership transfers among family members where a bona fide fair-market-value sale does not occur. This would help Maui County’s kamaaina working families protect their financial assets.
In addition, the rule should specify how the Clean Water State Revolving Fund will help homeowners access no-interest loans when upgrades are required.
Baisa met with state health officials and county administration representatives on this issue earlier in the week. She is working with the Department of Health to schedule a meeting regarding the state’s cesspool proposal, tentatively set for Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chamber. More details will be posted when the meeting is confirmed.
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