The Department of Health says high levels of a harmful bacteria called Clostridium Perfringens -- an indicator of human and animal wastes -- were found during recent water testing in Waikomo Stream on Kauai's South Shore. The department says there are 1,600 cesspools and 120 injection wells in the Poipu area, and some of them are overflowing and polluting the stream.
"We have a tremendous backlog of cesspools that are potentially contaminating ground water, wells, and certainly our near shore beaches and marine environment," said State Rep. Chris Lee, Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.
Testing was done at Waikomo Stream on March 1. Beach goers are advised to stay out of the water if it's brown, but there is no word from the health department if signs have been posted. State Representative Dee Morikawa who represents Poipu says she's concerned about the island's cesspool problem and the harmful impact on communities and visitor industry.
"It's definitely a heavily used area for condominiums, timeshares, and hotels. The Hyatt is there. A lot of tourist go in that area," said Morikawa.
Last year, Hawaii was the last state in the nation to ban new cesspools. Now lawmakers are looking for ways to protect the public and environment from contamination caused by cesspools. There is a push to expand a program that gives homeowners a tax credit of up to $10,000 if they upgrade to a sewer or septic system by 2020. But critics say that doesn't work for everyone.
"Even with the tax credit, those are very expensive. And there are so many of my constituents who can't afford it," said Morikawa.
Some suggest using the Transient Accommodations Tax to help counties expand their sewer systems or have the state provide Capital Improvement Project funds. Either way, many agree, improvements needs to happen now.
"We really need to figure out today what we can do to get resources into the hands of those homeowners near water and near the ocean so we can start to make those upgrades now," said Lee.