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Alternative wastewater treatment system workshop Thursday in Hanalei

HANALEI — Ridge to Reefs and Wastewater Alternatives and Innovations are hosting a workshop on a nature-based wastewater treatment system Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Hale Halawai ‘Ohana O Hanalei.

The workshop is open to all Hanalei and surrounding area residents interested in learning more about nature-based alternatives to wastewater treatment.

In 2017, Act 125 declared that Hawai‘i homeowners with cesspools must upgrade their systems by 2050.

It has been shown through dye-tracing experiments and other environmental analyses that raw wastewater from cesspools, as well as injection wells, is having a direct impact on coastal-water quality and coral-reef health.

The quality of drinking water is also threatened by the 88,000+ cesspools in the state.

While this ruling supports efforts to improve water quality and preserve wildlife in Hawai‘i, septic system and aerobic treatment unit upgrades are costly, making timely upgrades challenging for many residents.

Ridge to Reefs and WAI are focused on developing low-cost, nature-based solutions, and influencing policy to support a swift and cost-effective wastewater-treatment upgrade across the state.

This workshop is for homeowners with cesspools, engineers, contractors, wastewater professionals, local leaders and anyone else interested in improving water quality. Participants can register at

To learn more about the host organizations, visit and

Ridge to Reefs currently has an above-ground system undergoing National Sanitation Foundation testing by the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa at the East Honolulu Wastewater Treatment Plant. While the system was built above-ground for ease of taking samples and monitoring, it is designed to go underground, replacing cesspools.

A standard septic system and leach field system is around $25,000, depending on site soils, and the Ridge to Reefs system likely would be around $35,000 as a rough base price, more or less depending on site conditions, said Kelly Janae Harris, Ridge to Reefs ecological engineeer and project developer, in an email.

She said the Ridge to Reefs Bioreactor Garden could cost $5,000 to $10,000 less than an aerobic treatment unit.

“Our intention is to continue finding ways to make this system more affordable for homeowners, through government loan programs and other types of financing, as well as policy improvements like reducing the size of leach fields since our system both cleans and evaotranspires water,” she said.
Source: The Garden Island

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