The Kapa’a couple are the first in the country to convert a septic tank into a revolutionary eco-friendly technology : Kauai Now : Kauai News & Information

By Amanda Kurt

A Kapa’a couple are leading the way in environmental change after converting their home septic system to a more eco-friendly one.

On Thursday, June 2, several community members gathered at the home of Robert and Magenta Zelkozsky where their newly converted septic systems into a combined gray water system were demonstrated and blessed.

The system was converted as part of a pilot project in partnership with Wastewater Alternatives & Innovation, or WAI, Cinderella Eco Group and Environmental LLC. WAI executive director Stuart Coleman helped organize the home treatment demonstration on Thursday. He said the Zelkozskys are the first landlords in the country to convert to this system.

“It’s really cool, Robert and Magenta Zelkozsky worked for years and years with Surfrider Foundation and they wanted to be innovators,” Coleman told the assembly of county leaders and residents.

The toilets, developed by Cinderella Eco Group, provide waterless toilets and safe sanitation to the global market, as waste is burned by combining pressure from below with radiant heat.

The Norway-based company explains that the fresh air is then directed into the combustion chamber and the exhaust gases are filtered before being released into the air.

Application of this Cinderella system could potentially alleviate Hawaii’s chronic sewage spills as a modern alternative to high-maintenance compost toilets by supporting cost-effective and environmentally friendly sump conversion technology. environment.

Looking back, Robert Zelkozsky said he was part of the problem, describing the lack of educational materials he had been aware of during his 47 years on Kaua’i.

Today, in the mid-1970s, Zelkozsky said, “It’s 70 years of flushing that I have to live with,” he continued, adding, “the logistics were simple, and I hope this house project will inspire others.”

The system set up by Zelkozsky cost around $30,000. However, Coleman said the cost of residential conversions can vary depending on the soil of the property. However, he added that he believed WAI could convert domestic septic tanks for less than that amount.

Asked about Hawaii’s high-priced utilities, the Zelkozskys said their bills have gone up about $50 a month from the time before the decision to convert.

“The cost is worth it in the long run,” Magenta Zelkozsky said.

Although it seems like a costly burden to place on the landlord, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in November 2021, helps municipalities and landowners convert old septic tanks.

“It’s like FDR’s New Deal,” Coleman said. “It’s a huge amount of money, and we have the potential to access that federal money, but we have to apply for it.”

The Zelkozskys had to apply to the Ministry of Health to convert their septic tank to the combined gray water system. While Coleman agreed that Kaua’i County is ahead of the game in finding ways to be environmentally friendly, the process of converting septic systems is mired in roadblocks.

Currently, the DOH manages applications for the Greywater Combined System through the Housing Office.

“Right now, the DOH is saying they’re understaffed. We have a chance to relieve that landlord burden, but only if we act,” Coleman said. is a lot of money for owners who don’t have one.”

“Council members Mason Chock and Luke Evslin have created something that can be a model for the whole state,” Coleman said, adding, “Right now the money has to go through the DOH and then into the counties. , but they don’t give money to the state or counties to hire people to treat it.

Along with the DOH’s joint effort to better understand the environmental impacts of wastewater, the county board worked with the Water Resources Research Center and voted to support system upgrades, after Act 132, a comprehensive statewide study of wastewater contamination in coastal marine areas. , passed the Hawaii State Legislature in 2018.

“Luke and Mason then got $1.2 million for this year to start outfitting homes near waterways,” Zelkozsky said, a program the county hopes to continue.

The program involves State Revolving Funds, a fund administered by a US state to provide low-interest loans for investments in water and sanitation infrastructure.

“The Environmental Protection Agency wants to see this work for Hawaii and they’re willing to send someone to the county to help set up an effective treatment system for homeowners,” Coleman said.

One solution may soon be for nonprofit organizations to step in to help distribute funds and oversee projects.

And since the Zelkozsky property was WAI’s pilot project, the first of its kind in the country, the process was lengthy due to the requirement to follow the letter of the law.

“I’m really glad, and that WAI got the innovation grant, and that we’re doing it here,” Coleman said pointing to Robert and Magenta, adding, “This is a three to four problem. billion dollars for Hawaii.”

Among some of the most frequently asked questions about the conversion, the Zelkozskys said the potential for a noisy exit from the incinerator initially made the couple hesitant.

“If you go online and read the literature it says 54 or 56 decibels, kind of like a dishwasher,” Robert said, adding, “there’s a kind of smell of burning paper when the incinerator starts up. , but nothing bad.

For more information on how to get involved, visit Wastewater Alternatives and Innovations at waicleanwater.org.

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