Council moves forward with cesspool conversion program

LIHU‘E — Converting a cesspool to a septic tank can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. A new bill introduced by the Kaua‘i County Council seeks to absorb those costs for homeowners.

Finance and Economic Development Committee Chair Luke Evslin and Vice Chair Mason Chock introduced Bill No. 2837 on Sept. 15, which would establish a county program that would utilize $1.2 million in forgivable loans to covert or close existing cesspools.

“By taking advantage of $1.2 million of Clean Water State Revolving Fund moneys, passed from the (Environmental Protection Agency), down to the states, with 100% principal forgiveness, we can very literally install septic systems at no cost to homeowners,” said Evslin in an announcement on Facebook Sept. 16. “Passage of this bill would be a huge win in the fight against our housing crisis and a huge win for our environment.”

Should the bill pass, the program would be managed by the Kaua‘i County Housing Agency because the bill’s intent is to address the housing crisis.

Any landowner with a cesspool is required to upgrade or convert the property’s method of sanitary waste treatment and disposal prior to obtaining a building permit.

“It’s been a huge barrier for people to add on to existing houses or building an ‘ohana unit on the back of their property,” said Evslin during a Monday interview.

The bill prioritizes properties that have an existing or approved building plan for additional dwelling unit (ADU), additional rental unit (ARU), or guest house.

“(It’s the) first priority because we want to use the bill as a mechanism to try and address the housing crisis,” said Evslin. In this way, the bill incentivizes people to create additional housing on their properties.

Other priorities include applicants living in an area that is a high priority for water quality improvement as determined by the state Department of Health Environmental Management Division, those earning no more than 120% of the median household income, and properties that are owner-occupied. Should all the priorities be exhausted, then it would move to a first come, first serve program.

To take full advantage of the available funding, the bill needs to move quickly.

For the next fiscal year, which begins July 2022, the County of Kaua‘i is the only county in the state applying for the funding, and is therefore eligible for the full amount. In future years, the money could be split with additional counties should they apply to implement their own conversion programs.

According to Evslin, $1.2 million would be enough to fund between 30 and 40 conversions, which would need to be completed before the end of June 2023, the end of that fiscal year. Per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, cesspools must be converted by 2050.

Before the work can begin, there are several big steps that need to be taken, including hiring administrators and contractors and going through an application process with residential property owners.

If the county is unable to fulfill all the requirements for funding, the full funding amount would not be received and the number of conversions would be lowered.

The bill requires the county to be responsible for the all of the administrative costs of the project, which Evslin projects to be around $150,000. The council is hoping fund this with money from the American Rescue Plan Act over the next four years, but is waiting for clarity as to if this type of cost will qualify for the federal funding.

If it does, it would be a big boost for the bill.

“In my mind it could be the perfect thing to help get this program off the ground for the next four years,” said Evslin.

The bill was approved on first hearing on Sept. 15, and is scheduled for a public hearing on Oct. 20.

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Laurel Smith, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0424 or lsmith@thegardenisland.com.

9 Comments
  1. Eric Greenfield September 21, 2021 6:21 am Reply

    How about all the people that live in old neighborhoods? Houses right next to each other. Run sewer down those streets so everyone in Koloa doesn’t have to install a septic system. Or do you just have to give all those contracts to tour cousins and uncles? Typical Kauai corruption. A guy down the street had to pay over 150,000 for a new system because once they hit Lava its$$$$$$$! Get a clue council members!! Run sewer so that all the old families can add to their houses and keep their families on island. You have no problem running sewer for all the rich neighborhoods because your palms are getting greased. Yup looking at you Kawakami. Do the right thing. Run sewer. You agreed too cesspools back in the day like a bunch of po dunk idiots now correct your mistake. Yes the sewer companies would love to get a monthly payment from everyone right because they’re greedy right so let’s make it happen and bring sewer to the people.


    1. Rev Dr Malama September 21, 2021 8:55 am Reply

      Yes, Eric….

      Politics as usual!!! They going do a study then poof, no mo kala, no more AUDITOR to bust the dummy’s corruption scheme…

      Give the $$$$ to the Hawai’ian people instead!!!!


    2. Matt K. September 22, 2021 6:57 am Reply

      Which “rich neighborhoods” have sewer on the island? I agree Koloa and Poipu both should have proper sewer. There was/is a great opportunity to start this with the McMansions being developed at Makahuena Point. Running sewer to a proper plant located way mauka should have been a requirement for those properties, and AOAs along the route could have contributed and converted as well. The amount of stuff the ocean has to absorb when it rains is terrible.


  2. RGLadder37 September 21, 2021 12:57 pm Reply

    I don’t the county council understand how to get this money. Sure the money is there by the EPA. But now how do they get it? They must some how apply for it? Are the names listed qualified to represent the community? I don’t think so.


    1. RGLadder37 September 21, 2021 12:59 pm Reply

      “think”


  3. drsurf September 21, 2021 2:38 pm Reply

    Kaua`i Surfrider monthly water testing (on hold for now) has shown consistent bacterial pollution of all our inland waterways and also some ocean spots close to the river and stream outlets. The main offender is human waste via holes in the ground – cesspools. There are approximately 13,700 cesspools on Kaua`i, no new cesspools can be dug and all existing cesspools must be removed by 2050, approximately 500 per year. Any new or after the fact building permit approval must have certification by DOH of a septic system.
    This program is a start and can be a model for more creative programs to rid Kaua`i of cesspools and bacterial pollution.


    1. Ronald Evans September 22, 2021 11:12 am Reply

      Kauai can be strange. I live on the Kapaa bike path. The street behind us is on the county sewer system, literally one house away. I’m on a cesspool. You would think they would have connected my street when they upgraded the bike path? Nope. It’s like there is no logic to any infrastructure… ever…


  4. MisterM September 21, 2021 3:48 pm Reply

    Totally outrageous!

    Fine these people heavily so they comply. Foreclose on them if they don’t pay. This is a Public Health hazard.

    If the County wants more housing, subsidize new homes that need the very same septic systems so the new homes are affordable.


  5. TT September 22, 2021 7:51 pm Reply

    I am so torn! I would love assistance on 2 properties.. Instead of giving freely to 30-40 property owners why not break it up and give a percentage or incentive for those who can meet the county financially and commit to long term rentals?


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