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Halawa Bathrooms to Get Controversial Upgrade

An outdated cesspool servicing the public bathrooms in Halawa Valley will be replaced by a 1250 gallon septic tank and leach field by 2020. The $40,000 project, proposed by the Maui County Dept. of Parks and Recreation, was approved by the Molokai Planning Commission last week, though concerns persisted over proper archeological monitoring of the site during construction.

“That area is one of the oldest sites, also [having] a lot of burials so having a cultural person is going to be really important,” Mana`e resident Mililani Hanapi testified at Wednesday’s meeting. “But the bathrooms are really important.”

Project Engineer Brandon Murr of CDF Engineering, contracted by Parks and Recreation for the septic replacement, confirmed there will be an archeological monitor on site during all construction work. He also he said he had met with the Solatorio family and others in Halawa, who expressed support of the project.

Murr said the Halawa project is one of eight cesspool abandonment projects in the county, in an effort to phase out the use of cesspools, which are no longer to code. It is one of two on Molokai; the other was at One Ali`i Park, though that one was not replaced with a septic system, he said.

Currently, the Halawa bathroom contains one women’s and one men’s stall with no plans for expansion, though Murr said the capacity of the proposed septic system would allow for additional toilets.

Despite agreeing on the continued need for bathrooms in Halawa, some planning commissioners expressed doubts about the project.

Commissioner Lori Buchanan wondered what would happen to any iwi or artifacts uncovered during construction.

“When you talk about Halawa, everyone knows there are burials all the way down to the water,” explained Alapa`i Hanapi, who said he is frequently asked by the state and others to handle uncovered remains. He said in the case of finding bones, research needs to be done to find the descendants and family members. “Anything found should be returned to them,” he added. “It should not be put in a trailer. It shouldn’t be moved anywhere else, it should be returned to the rightful [inheritors].”

Others had concerns about the type of waste processing system that was chosen.

“I want to know if [the county] considered any alternatives to septic tank,” said testifier Walter Ritte. “Ali`i Fishpond doesn’t have a septic tank but has composting toilets and that takes away all negative impacts so hopefully [the county can consider that]. Composting toilets would have a very low impact on the area.”

Murr said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only proposed two alternatives for the Halawa project — one being the septic tank and leach field, and the other was a deeper seepage pit that would require digging to a great depth. The leach field is more shallow and will not affect the water source or have any negative impacts on the nearby river or ocean, he claimed.

“Composting toilets are not approved by EPA so it’s not an option,” Murr said.

Buchanan questioned that statement, saying numerous projects now use composting toilets in sensitive areas.

“I thought it was a great idea,” she said, adding she wants to see composting as an alternative considered for Halawa. “The county needs to get a little more environmentally friendly when it comes to treating our soil.”

Others questions the community’s desire for the project.

“Do the people of Mana`e want Halawa to have those facilities or not?” wondered commissioner John Pele, saying not much public testimony was given on the project. “For me, it’s all about what the community wants. If they want bathrooms, I think we should give them bathrooms that are functional and clean.”

Planning commissioners did end up voting in favor of the Special Management Area permit needed for the project to move forward, with the condition that Hanapi be given the opportunity to be present, in addition to the assigned archeological monitor, during construction to ensure proper treatment of any remains found. Seven commissioners voted in favor, and Buchanan was the only opposing vote.

“For me at this point, it doesn’t seem that the county has done enough due diligence to members of the community,” she said. “In my opinion, the county plan is inadequate at this time.”

Buchanan said she also felt it was unfair to ask Hanapi on the spot to assist with the project.

Hapani said he would need more information before agreeing.

“It comes down to protecting our kupuna and making sure they’re protected appropriately and making sure they get the respect they deserve,” he said.

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