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Local Cesspools Are a Housing Issue in Hawaii

By HOM Editorial Team
December 2015

There are about 90,000 cesspools in Hawaii receiving wastewater. The state’s Department of Health wants to shut them down and convert to a public sewer system or septic system, but local REALTORS® oppose the conversion because it will affect housing affordability.

The Hawaii Association of REALTORS® states that if implemented, the proposal would have a chilling effect on local housing: They predict lenders will exclude cesspool properties, impacting housing affordability.

About 38% of Hawaii residents are not served by a centralized wastewater treatment plant, according to the state Department of Health. These residents rely on local or individual systems such cesspools, which receive raw sewage but do not treat it. Septic systems are another common small-scale option, but one that allows for basic treatment of the wastewater.

Transitioning from cesspool to septic can cost up to $15,000—a significant additional cost in an already expensive housing market, said Mary Begier, principal broker and owner of Mary Begier Realty in Hilo, HI.

Hawaii REALTORS® are organizing a statewide coalition of affected homeowners, contractors, landowners, developers and farmers who also oppose the proposal. They plan to petition the state governor for support.

Hawaii’s Big Island has the most cesspools—nearly 50,000—followed by Kauai with 14,000 and Maui with 12,000. Most are in remote areas without access to a public sewer system.

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