The New High Priority Areas for Cesspool Conversion

A new report published by the Hawaii Department of Health in December of 2017 discusses 14 critical areas with high concentrations of cesspools that should receive priority for replacement, which together represent approximately half of all inventoried cesspools in the state.


The State of Hawai‘i has nearly 88,000 cesspools that discharge over 50 million gallons of raw sewage into the State’s groundwater and surface waters every day. Cesspools are an antiquated technology for disposal of untreated sewage that have the potential to pollute groundwater. The State relies on groundwater for over 90% of its drinking water. Cesspools also present a risk of illness to island residents and cause significant harm to streams and coastal resources, including coral reefs.

Legislature has begun to address the serious health and environmental impacts of cesspool pollution. During the 2017 regular session, Act 125 was passed, requiring the replacement of all cesspools by 2050 and directing the Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) to, among other tasks, investigate the priority of cesspools Statewide to be upgraded or converted based on each cesspool’s impact on public health.

This report discusses 14 critical areas with high concentrations of cesspools that should receive priority for replacement. Five of these areas are located on Oahu, one on Maui, three on Kauai and five on the Big Island. Each area is assigned a priority level between 1 and 3, level 1 being the highest. Upcountry, Maui and Kahalu'u, Oahu have been rated as priority level 1.

Our team at Laulea hopes that this prioritization helps move along the long process of cesspool upgrades in the State of Hawaii and we look forward to doing our part by providing progressive, collaborative, and reliable engineering solutions. We are always available to provide more information and help with procedures to accomplish cesspool upgrades or conversions.

The New Cesspool Upgrade Task Force

A new bill was passed on March 1, 2018 that establishes a Cesspool Upgrade Task Force which will focus on converting cesspools in high priority areas within the next fifteen years.


The bill S.B. 2567 specifies that an appointed counsel consisting of government officials and representatives from non-governmental organizations will from now on advise the Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) on how to ensure that cesspools on properties that are within priority upgrade areas are upgraded within fifteen years. The task force will present its findings in 2019 and be dissolved afterwards.

This bill is an answer to the question of who should lead the way in the new era of the HDOH cesspool upgrade campaign. With over 40,000 cesspools still classified as risks to our water resources, a step needed to be taken to form a strategy for the enormous task of converting tens of thousands of cesspools individually.

Our team at Laulea hopes for constructive teamwork and is excited for new developments in our quest to elevate Hawaii’s approach to wastewater challenges by providing progressive, collaborative, and reliable engineering solutions.