Cesspools: Hawai‘i’s Dirty Little SecretNovember 2020

Cesspools: Hawai‘i’s Dirty Little SecretNovember 2020

cesspool photoCongratulations to Michael Mezzacapo (WRRC Outreach Specialist) and colleagues who recently published an article in the Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education. Upgrading Hawai‘i’s antiquated cesspools is challenging and requires collaboration from many key sectors, including government, nonprofits, local businesses, and academia. This paper provides an overview of the ongoing problem through multiple disciplines and can be used as (1) a resource for policy-makers drafting future conversion plans, and (2) applied to Pacific communities with similar onsite sewage disposal system (OSDS) concerns.

Approximately 88,000 cesspools in Hawai‘i release nearly 55 million gallons per day (mgd) of sewage into the ground. These OSDS are substandard because they lack primary treatment and discharge pathogens and nutrients into groundwater and eventually, the ocean. This timely and significant review by a team of University of Hawai‘i researchers reviewed the status of wastewater pollution around the Hawaiian Islands and the associated impacts to water resources, nearshore ecosystems, and human health. The results of their research highlighted the urgency to upgrade a majority of the cesspools currently used in Hawai‘i and for the creation of a statewide cesspool conversion plan with a transparent, adaptable framework.

Find out more in “Hawai‘i’s Cesspool Problem: Review and Recommendations for Water Resources and Human Health.” Link to article:

Photo: Cesspool—courtesy of Laulea Engineering, LLC