HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Health Department is going ahead with rules banning cesspools statewide even after state lawmakers rejected similar proposals last year.
"It's absolutely an end-around, absolutely an end-around," said state Rep. Richard Creagan (D) Kona. "It was a bad idea because it was going to cost a huge amount of money. Last year these bills to ban cesspools came before us and we did not vote for them. We voted them down."
Creagan was among 11 Neighbor Island lawmakers urging Gov. David Ige not to sign the new rules. They said barring new construction of cesspools will cost homeowners up to half a billion dollars because it will force them to install septic systems, which are ten times more expensive.
There are over 90,000 cesspools in Hawaii and most of them are on the neighbor islands. And each year, 800 new ones are approved for construction.
"They're coming from a position of eco-zealotry. They're eco-zealots. They want an easy solution for a complex problem," added Creagan.
But environmentalists said the new rules are overdue. They said that cesspools dump thousands of gallons of contaminated water into Hawaii's ocean and rivers.
"Cesspools are an archaic way of handling human waste and they are not consistent with the amount of human waste we now produce in Hawaii," said Marti Townsend, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii. "You look at Kahaluu as an example. There is so much human waste in that stream flow area and the headwaters to the ocean there that people are walking into waters there with open sores, they're getting sick."
Both Creagan and Townsend are in favor of appointing a task force to take a closer look at the problems of cesspools in Hawaii. However, Ige could reject that idea and approve a new cesspool ban with the stroke of a pen.