The outdated sewage management system is threatening beach and groundwater quality alike
Sewage from cesspools in Hawaii have threatened drinking water quality, coral reefs and beach health. According to the Wall Street Journal, Hawaii has 88,000 cesspools across the eight major islands, more than any other state. These cesspools result in 53 million gal of raw sewage deposited in the ground each day with 90% of the state’s drinking water coming from groundwater wells.
The problem is concentrated in suburban and rural areas outside of Honolulu where cesspools have long been in use and cause nitrates to seep into drinking water systems. The rocky, diverse terrain of the Hawaiian islands make it difficult to lay sewer lines and the sheer volume of cesspools would be hugely expensive to replace with cost estimates of at least $1.75 billion, according to the state’s health department. Sen. J. Kalani English estimates a cost of $100,000 per cesspool.
While state lawmakers outlawed new cesspools in 2016, the existing cesspools continue to pollute Hawaiian waters. Recently, lawmakers called on engineers to generate new solutions noting that converting to septic systems would not be effective as the groundwater would still be at risk.