Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Musings: Sewage Seepage

With news that coral reefs in Hawaii are experiencing a severe bleaching episode — and yes, it's happening across the state, though The Garden Island makes it sound like a Kauai-centric phenomenon — it becomes even more important to crack down on coastal cesspools.

Because as Kim Hum, Hawaii Director of Marine Programs for The Nature Conservancy, noted in an article by the Associated Press:

The corals are animals, right, they're not rocks. So what bleaching is, it's a sign of distress. [People need to] make our coral as healthy as possible ... so that they can respond and they don't bleach and they don't die because of these additional stressors.

Sewage is a major stressor of coral reefs. Now, as part of a new overall water quality plan, the state Department of Health has proposed ending the use of cesspools in new housing and requiring existing homes to convert to septic systems upon sale.

As West Hawaii Today reported, emphasis added:

Hawaii is the only state in the nation that still allows construction of new cesspools. There are currently 90,000 cesspools in the state. The majority, some 50,000, are located on the Big Island. In addition, almost 14,000 are on Kauai, more than 12,000 are on Maui, more than 11,000 are on Oahu and more than 1,400 are on Molokai. Each year an additional 800 new cesspools are approved for construction, according to the Health Department.

Though the Board of Realtors has opposed the change, claiming it will make housing more expensive and unduly burden local people, they've said nothing about the numerous high-end oceanfront homes that operate on cesspools.

Many of these houses, as I've previously reported in the Abuse Chronicles, are used as transient vacation rentals. And that means three things: they're generating a helluva lot of waste; they're regularly flipped, so this new rule would force them to upgrade, and they can certainly afford it.

For a vivid illustration of what's at stake, check out this graphic (click to enlarge), which shows just the Wainiha subdivision:
As I reported in the Abuse Chronicles, the defacto resort known as Hale Makai has five separate TVRs, each with its own cesspool. They were dug in 1967, including two that were just 50 and 75 feet, respectively, from the ocean. No doubt they're much closer now, given erosion. Between them, they can accommodate 19 people per night. 

Then there's Swaying Palms. Its cesspool was dug in 1958 for a 320-square-foot, two-room cottage. It now serves five bathrooms — each with a Jacuzzi tub — in a seven-bedroom TVR that is 10 times larger the original house.

Other houses, though not right on the beach, expanded without converting to a septic tank. Rainbows End, for example, was upgraded to three bathrooms — using the original cesspool that was designed to accommodate one bathroom.

How can they possibly be allowed to continue operating on cesspools?

Hanalei Bay is another toilet, as this map depicts (click to enlarge):
No doubt the situation is the same at Anini, Kalihiwai, Moloaa, Aliomanu, Anahola, Kapaa and everywhere else that TVRs cluster along the coast.

So not only did most of these TVR owners acquire their permits improperly, they're now being allowed to degrade the ocean and groundwater with impunity. 

Yet curiously, the North Shore crowd that lives in the thick of this shitty situation has become obsessed with GMOs/pesticides on the westside rather than screaming about the crap, literally, that they surf and swim in daily.

Uh, hello, Ohana O Kauai? Is anybody home? Mayoral candidate Dustin Barca and sidekick Fern Rosenstiel — is this even on your radar? I saw nothing on your website. Don't you folks think that e-coli is a threat to the keiki and fisheries? Not to mention all the other stuff that people flush down the toilet. Or are the donations from the richy-riches and North Shore Realtors blurring your vision?

What about North Shore Council candidate and "red shirt" Felicia Cowden, who weighed in on everything from GMOs to cat licensing? Nothing but crickets on this important issue. Instead, she emphasizes only the impact of agriculture on water quality.

Yes, this new rule may be a hardship for some. But those crocodile tears shed by the Board of Realtors aren't for the poor peons. They're for the well-heeled clients who might find it costly or impossible to locate a septic system on some of these expensive coastal lots. 

If you care about Hawaii's reefs and coastal resources, take a few moments and submit your testimony to wqpcomments@doh.hawaii.gov. You have until Friday, Oct. 17, to weigh in. 

To borrow a slogan from Ohana O Kauai and the rest of the "red shirts," since they obviously aren't using it anymore: "Protect What You Love."
(Cartoon from the Big Island Chronicle.)


Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Joan! You covered all the points. Bravo! I guess we can call the Fistees "Selective Environmentalists".

Anonymous said...

What about the mayor, the present council members, Kaneshiro, Brun, Perry? What do they propose? Joan, go educate them---they are the ones who you should be concerned about because they will most likely run our county after November 4th!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

If you are going to point fingers, how about to those already in office who should have the awareness of this issue and deal with it. Kitchen waste, bathroom waste, soaps and utility sink waste go into cesspools. People flush substances like meds and vitamins down toilets. Hanalei Bay water quality has improved with changes to septic there. Time for change to the state laws.

Joan Conrow said...

My point is we ALL have a chance now to change the rules, if we truly care about water quality.

Anonymous said...

Joan said "So not only did most of these TVR owners acquire their permits improperly,"

What sanctions or fines did those civil servants that issued those improper permits receive? If there were no sanctions or fines how will changing the rules prevent civil servants from ignoring them and issuing improper permits in the future?

Perhaps voluntary disclosure by the TVR owners who are issued improper permits would be as effective as the seed companies voluntary disclosures of pesticide use has been.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...is there actually any science that supports the contention that Hanalei bay is being turned into a toiler? Any studies showing elevated levels of e coli or other harmful bacteria? Or any evidence that these vacation rentals actually have higher daily average occupancy rates than the non-vacation rentals in the area? The anti GMO crowd has been criticized for using emotion in place of science, for dividing the community with scare tactics, etc. So - where are the scientific studies and other evidence to support your claims?

Joan Conrow said...

Here you go:

The issue is not whether TVRs have higher or lower occupancy rates than non-TVRs. What I'm concerned about is how cesspools dug half-a-century ago to accommodate one bathroom are now serving TVRs with three-to-five times as many bathrooms.

Anonymous said...

The north shore should have a sewer system.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for providing the link to that report. The report does not break out TVR versus non TVR cesspool use and it's potential link to elevated bacterial levels in Hanelei Bay. Since nearly all homes near Hanalei bay - not just TVR's - are on cesspool, and there is no evidence that TVR's have higher daily occupancy rates than non TVR's, and there is no evidence that shows that TVR owners increased the number of bathrooms in their homes more than non TVR owners did over the last fifty years, then I don't understand why you are criticizing TVR's but not non-TVR homes without any evidence to show that one type of house is causing more harm to Hanalei bay than the other type.

Anonymous said...

Joan - ur house in Anahola has what kind of system?

Anonymous said...

It is hilarious that north shore residents who supported 2491 are being called occasional environmentalists, and then you have the poster who asks the question, but do you have any evidence for your claims. Almost word for word out of the pro GMO playbook.

As someone once so famously said, up is down, black is white, night is day.


We can't agree on this blog, because there is a basic philosophy. Even when Joan does a great post, others come along, and bring up the whole "what is your evidence? Everyone should come under the law! You are all hippies because you care about the environment, and that is an awful thing, because you re all from Haight Ashbury! *Which shows the average age, of this blogs posters, ie older then God himself. (Kidding don't get your undies in a bunch)

These right wing nutjobs only care about their Archie Bunker agendas. And when Joan doesn't tow the line, they get really smarmy.

Thankfully Joan doesn't tow anyone's line, and does think independently. I sure as hell don't agree with her, maybe less then fifty percent of the time, sometimes I think she is straight wacked, but every time she tries to bring up environmental issues, the Blue Shirted crowd comes out screaming, and blames everything on the redshirted crowd. *Ie, Archie Bunker mentality(perceived by the redshirts), and dirty California hippie trust fund baby mentality (perceived by the blue shirts.)

In actuality, most redshirts are environmentalists *real ones*, and most blue shirts are for good ol military god country appole pie stuff, ie conservatives versus libs. It's pretty basic, not that hard to understand.

So the libs and conservatives don't like each other. Conservative types hate any mention of the environment, lib types hate any mention of the fact that in the 60s there were hippies, and there are still hippies today and they are probably one because they recycle and eat kale.

It's laughable and thats why we can't get anything ever meaningfully done here on kauai, damnit. Cuz we keep floating into these ridiculous labels, camps, groups, etc, instead of just doing what is logical for our island!
Duh! Clean up the sewers, and hey Manong! Stop throwing bleach in our water to catch your fish! A-holes!

Do you know the bleach bottle content of Kapaa trashcans by the beach is pretty darn high. Used to be they come down to Hanalei, till the locals took care of that caught em right in the act bleaching the water. Holy crap kalua pig man!

Musta been from the Waimea side!

(Just kidding...see how dumb that sounds?)

Joan Conrow said...

11:11 -- Since you are obviously blocked on this, let me spell it out: I support the DOH rule change that addresses ALL houses, and for the reasons I previously noted in both my post and the comments, I am especially concerned about TVRs with cesspools.

11:16 -- I don't live in Anahola. But when I did, it had a septic.

Anonymous said...

Joan - the problem is not the system but the use. Therefore I suggest meters attached to each toilet. The government and activists want to rule every aspect of our lives so they might as well be in our toilets too😝

Anonymous said...

I do not want s smart meter on my toilet!

Anonymous said...

Joan, thank you for reporting on this...as I was reading TGI this morning this is exactly what I was thinking...what about all these cesspools on and near the ocean?? Great post with excellent examples.

Anonymous said...

Change is slow.
The State proposed law could require that any home within 500 feet of the shoreline be required to install a Septic system within 180 days of sale.
To require ALL houses to convert on sale is BS.
It will be a nightmare. This law will put a kabosh on moderately priced homes. A Cesspool to Septic conversion will cost 18,000$ in a best case scenario, prolly 25K. There are not enough Kauai engineers or inspectors to do a couple of hundred permits per year. A real logistic impossibility.
Every law regarding housing makes it more difficult to own a house.
If I gave a lot to a young person for free, they most likely couldn't afford to build.
Water meter 20K (plus install and engineering)
Septic 18K
Permit and plans 5K
Hooser Solar heater BS law 8K
Dust fence 5K
Grading etc 5K
geez, about 65K before a shovel is in the dirt...or a 2 by 4 is bought, let alone the Sheiks ransom that you pay for concrete.
The process thru the Planning Dept and Water Dept can take a Camel's lifespan. The County agencies are afraid to do anything because of the rabid Hooserites and Yukimura Anti-development freaks putting their noses in your business.

There are no houses for the working man and this law will make it worse.
JoAnn has her orgiastic nirvana with her achievement of denying any local a house....you can add Bynum, Hooser and Chock to the No Houses for the Locals tribe.
Got a million, yep, you are in, got 500K sorry you poor sap, this County only wants millionaires.

Any working person who votes for Bynum, Hooser, Yuki, Hooser's handmaiden Chock or Felicia deserves their high rents, high taxes and restricted personal freedoms.
The anti-local tribe of five.

Anonymous said...

1130 Groovey idea, a poop-o-meter, a kukai quantifier, a crap calculator, turd tester, waste weigher, a BM barometer........

Joan Conrow said...

"The State proposed law could require that any home within 500 feet of the shoreline be required to install a Septic system within 180 days of sale."

That's a good place to start.

Anonymous said...

I think it's time to ask Terry Lilley to do some cesspool dives, seriously. He needs more attention, and he can ask for donations, shoots I got five on it.
Seriously, good muse Joan. To obvious for most people to even comprehend. Household cleaners and waste and urine and roundup etc... just might inhibit some coral growth!