If you own a property or are considering buying a property with cesspools on Maui, it is good to be informed.
Sewage management is a major challenge here in Hawai’i and the nearly 88,000 cesspools are a very real and current concern statewide. In recent years, there have been multiple state legislative acts. I just came across a new one in the works. As a Maui resident, I have researched the slightly overwhelming subject several times over the past few years. I have learned that the big concern with cesspools on Maui is in the Upcountry area but they exist all across the island. Cesspools are also fairly common in the Wahikuli neighborhood, located just north of Lahaina (read more about the neighborhood here). I have personally bought property here and know that it continues to be a topic worthy of some research. So, I would like to summarize it for you:
Hawaii Cesspool Laws in Recent Years
Act 120 was passed and banned construction of new cesspools. It also offered homeowners $10,000 tax breaks for the cost of upgrading or converting a qualified cesspool to a septic tank system, an aerobic treatment unit system, or connecting to a sewer system. This tax incentive was good through December 31, 2020.
Act 125 was passed mandating the upgrade of all existing cesspools by 2050. The law also required the state Department of Health to complete an extensive report and develop a method of prioritizing which areas should be upgraded first.
Act 132 was passed and created a Cesspool Conversion Working group to develop a long-range, comprehensive plan for cesspool conversion comprised of various government and industry partners, including Hawai‘i REALTORS®.
SB369 SD1 is a new bill that was introduced on January 22 and is going through the process to see if it will become a law. The new bill establishes the Time of Transfer Wastewater System Inspection program in the Department of Health to oversee the inspection and repair of any individual wastewater system at the time of sale or transfer of residential real property attached to the wastewater system. It excludes certain sales or transfers. It also removes the limitation on specific types of wastewater systems to which cesspools must be upgraded or converted, and instead requires a cesspool to be upgraded or converted to a wastewater system approved by the department of health, prior to January 1, 2050.
This last one could have an immediate and consequential effect if passed when you go to buy or sell properties with cesspools on Maui. In the public hearing for this, several groups submitted testimony in support of the bill and the Hawaii Association of Realtors submitted testimony in opposition of the bill. Read the full testimonies here.
The following table includes estimates of the number of cesspools by island, as well as the estimated total discharge represented by those cesspools. This data was generated in 2009 and 2014 through a joint effort of the University of Hawai‘i (UH), DOH and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Housing data is estimated from the Census taken that same year.
Please contact me with any questions you might have.