Maui group protests
sewage left by boats
Pressure builds for state
pump-out facilities to be
built at small-boat harbors
WAILUKU » About a dozen people protested the practice of boats dumping raw sewage in Maalaea Harbor channel waters yesterday.
While the practice is legal outside the 3-mile federal jurisdiction, it pollutes the ocean and sometimes returns toward Maui when there are Kona winds and currents shift, said Richard Fairclo, one of the organizers.
"Sometimes it circulates for days," said Fairclo, a canoe paddler.
Fairclo said commercial and recreational boaters should be emptying their sewage into truck containers at the harbor, and said he is amazed the state has no pump-out system that would allow boat sewage to be sent to a waste-water treatment facility.
"We really want them to do the right thing," he said.
Out of more than 100 slips at Maalaea Harbor, there are some 30 commercial vessels, including whale-watching boats that attract an estimated 60,000 passengers yearly, state officials said.
Peter Young, director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said his department is working on a design for a pump-out facility at Maalaea and plans to have the project go out to bid toward the middle of the year.
"We've long recognized the need for pump-out facilities at Maalaea and other small-boat harbors where there is regular commercial traffic," he said. "In discussion with boaters, they want this facility as much as we do and as much as the community does."
Of the 21 small-boat harbors under state jurisdiction, only a handful have state pump-out stations, including Keehi, Heeia-Kea and Waianae on Oahu, Nawiliwili on Kauai and Lahaina on Maui.
Young said his department is also looking at developing a pump-out station at Honokohau on the Big Island.
He said the department sought funding from the state Legislature last year through general-obligation bonds that would be repaid through boating fees.
But lawmakers effectively denied the request, he said, by authorizing funding through revenue bonds that would have required the state to pay a higher interest on the boating improvement loan.
Pacific Whale Foundation President Greg Kaufman said he agrees with the protesters, and his nonprofit group will be announcing a plan next week to retain a sewage trucking company for pump-out services.
The foundation has three passenger vessels based in Maalaea, and would pay some $4,500 a month for the daily service, Kaufman said.
He said the solution is temporary and that his group has collected petition signatures throughout the years in support of a state pump-out station.
"We've been very vocal on this," he said.
Kaufman said state officials have found that some of the waste in the ocean occurs naturally, from turtles.
Dennis Fitzpatrick, a Maui kayaker, said that about four or five years ago, he and a Hollywood film producer were about 2 1/2 miles from shore when a vessel discharged sewage water near some whales.
"There's nobody to monitor these boats," he said.
Fitzpatrick said he feels the waste dumping is a public safety issue and increases the chance of infections such as hepatitis.
"It's not just an environmental concern for me. I think it's a public health issue," he said.