Mar. 3—The Hawaii Department of Health today said applications for the state's pilot cesspool grant program will be available starting March 15.
The program, established by a new law passed last year, helps low- and moderate-income property owners upgrade or convert their cesspools or connect to an available sewage system. Each grant recipient can receive up to $20,000 in reimbursements.
By law, all cesspools in Hawaii must be upgraded by the year 2050 to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements.
Cesspools — basically shallow, underground holes used for the disposal of human waste — collect and discharge untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens and harmful chemicals can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean.
The EPA has over the years been cracking down on illegal large-capacity cesspools on commercial and government properties in the state for violating the Safe Drinking Water Act.
"DOH recognizes that the requirement to upgrade or convert a cesspool imposes a financial burden on low and moderate-income families," said the department in a news release. "The purpose of this grant program is to assist such property owners, including lessees on Hawaiian Home Lands."
To qualify, cesspools must be in a "priority level 1" or "priority level 2" area, based on the University of Hawaii's cesspool interactive map tool at seagrant.soest.hawaii.edu/cesspools-tool/.
In addition, the applicant's household income cannot exceed 140% of the area median income ($182,840 for a family of four on Oahu) set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"This is truly an exciting program that will go a long way to help qualified applicants and, in turn, provide a healthier environment for future generations," said DOH Deputy Director for Environmental Health Kathleen Ho in the release. "I strongly recommend eligible households apply."
Grant awards will be on a first-come, first-served basis, the department said, subject to funding availability.
Visit health.hawaii.gov/wastewater/home/ccpgp or call 808-586-4294 for more information.