HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii environmental leaders say billionaire Bill Gates wants to help Hawaii in its quest to eliminate cesspools.
Because cesspools have become a significant environmental and public health concern, the state plans to remove all 88,000 of the underground waste disposal systems by 2050 — a job estimated to cost nearly $2 billion.
But Gates has a much cheaper proposal.
The co-founder of Microsoft has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into reinventing the toilet.
The futuristic models are self-contained, waterless, and use chemicals to transform waste into fertilizer, which Gates himself says doesn't smell or have any diseases.
Stuart Coleman, Hawaii Coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation, attended The Gates Foundation's Reinvented Toilet Expo in China earlier this month, and says the timing of this partnership is perfect.
"We're poised to make these decisions to convert all of our 88,000 cesspools across the state, and instead of just going to second best technology in septic systems, which can leak and not be as effective, we can go to the best technology in the world," Coleman said.
“For a lot of international companies, they see this as a great opportunity to show Hawaii can be a leader in the world.”
State Rep. Chris Lee, who also attended the conference, says they’re working to launch a pilot program here in Hawaii sometime next year.
He says some of the communities on the list to test the new toilets include Kahaluu and Waimanalo on Oahu, as well as Puako on the Big Island.
Lee says companies are looking to eventually price the toilets between $700 to $1,000.
“When you compare that to the $30,000 it would cost the homeowner to upgrade a cesspool to a septic system, it really is a no-brainer,” said Lee, who represents Kailua and Waimanalo.
Lee added that the new technology is also a game changer because companies are developing larger systems for apartment buildings, even entire cities.
“When it comes to our affordable housing crisis and all the buildings that can’t be built because of no sewer connection, those can now go forward in places that need that kind of redevelopment, that can use that affordable housing, and that’s really exciting for us here in Hawaii,” Lee said.