Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023 |
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It’s out with the old and in with the new at the Port Allen Small Boat Harbor.
On its way out: An aging cesspool that has no way of stopping sewage from leaking into nearby waterways.
On its way in: A pump station to transport sewage into the county sewer system.
Gov. Linda Lingle approved $535,000 yesterday for the replacement project, which will bring the harbor into compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards.
“The replacement of these dated cesspools with more environmentally responsible systems will prevent pollution and protect our precious ocean resources,” Lingle said in a press release.
The Port Allen Small Boat Harbor on the eastern shore of Hanapepe Bay is managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which has coordinated a timeline for the replacement with the EPA.
According to the governor’s office, construction is scheduled to begin before the end of 2007 and scheduled to be completed by next summer. The EPA-imposed deadline for the project is December 2008.
For years the EPA has been working toward eliminating all large-capacity cesspools, defined as those serving 20-plus people at a commercial site or multiple dwelling units at a residential site.
New construction of such cesspools has been banned since 2000, and existing systems nationwide were to be closed by 2005.
Nevertheless, there are still about 2,000 that remain open in Hawai‘i, said Rebecca Tuden, the EPA’s Pacific Southwest coordinator for large-capacity cesspools. In fact, Hawai‘i has more than any other state.
Cesspools, or drywells, are underground holes generally constructed as concrete cylinders with open bottoms and perforated sides and used for the disposal of raw, untreated sewage from toilets, sinks and washing machines, according to the EPA’s Web site.
The waste is sent directly into the ground, where it can percolate out the bottom and contaminate oceans, streams and groundwater.
The drywells are meant to contain the sewage, not treat it, which poses problems for heavily used sites.
Tuden said drinking water from wells that are close to cesspools is susceptible to health hazards. The same goes for public waterways.
According to Tuden, a challenge in bringing the state up to code is that many people don’t understand the risks associated with such an antiquated system.
“There is a general reluctance to invest in this infrastructure when you don’t know about the (water quality) concerns,” she said.
Like many agencies in Hawai‘i, DLNR reached a consent agreement with the EPA to extend its deadline to complete the replacement.
DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said via e-mail that the department has been working since 2004 on the replacement of large-capacity cesspools at its park and harbor facilities statewide.
On Kaua‘i, the department is working on replacement projects at Waimea State Recreation Pier and Wailua River State Park.
Among the department’s small boat harbors, four replacements were needed, including Ma‘alaea on Maui, Kawaihae on the Big Island, Manele on Lana‘i, and Port Allen.
According to Ward, the EPA is not aware of leaks from the Port Allen cesspool.
She said the current large-capacity cesspool will continue to be used until the new pump system is operational.
The Port Allen Small Boat Harbor, which was constructed by the state in 1962, has a two-lane, 30-foot-wide launch ramp, 34 berths, six moorings, a loading dock, fish hoist, vessel washdown, harbor office and, of course, restrooms.
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