Maui News

Presentation: “Purifying Kīhei’s Wastewater with 
Green Infrastructure as an Alternative to Injection Wells,” June 9

June 1, 2021, 9:57 AM HST
* Updated June 1, 9:58 AM
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PC: courtesyMaui Nui Marine Resource Council

Three new low cost, low energy, pilot green infrastructure systems that will be constructed in Kīhei this summer to purify water coming out of the Kīhei Wastewater Reclamation Facility will be the topic of a free Zoom presentation by Paul Sturm, Executive Director of Ridge to Reefs, on Wednesday, June 9 at 5:30 p.m.

These new systems will harness the power of plants, soil and microbial activity to purify wastewater to approach drinking water standards, dramatically expanding its potential uses and reducing the need for disposal via injection wells. 

This talk will be presented via Zoom as part of Maui Nui Marine Resource Council’s monthly “Know Your Ocean Speaker Series.” These monthly virtual events are supported by the County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

To reserve your spot, please visit http://bit.ly/KiheiWastewater.

Paul Sturm, Executive Director of Ridge to Reefs. PC: Maui Nui Marine Resource Council

Sturm will present plans for the three new Kīhei Wastewater Disposal Pilot projects that Ridge to Reefs will construct this summer with financial support from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; assistance from John Astilla, founder and owner of Sunshine Vetiver Solutions; and construction support from Aliʻi Farm Service. Organizers say the pilot projects will be “aesthetically pleasing and odor-free, bearing a closer resemblance to gardens rather than treatment facilities.”

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“Through natural processes, we will reduce the amount of wastewater that needs to be disposed of; any remaining wastewater will come as close as possible to drinking water standards, expanding opportunities for its re-use,” says Sturm. “Our Ridge to Reefs Kīhei Wastewater Disposal Pilot will be up and running within two months, ready to demonstrate the effectiveness of Ridge to Reefs’ nature-based solutions as viable, affordable alternatives to groundwater injection disposal.” 

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“We believe this system has the potential to reduce land-to-sea pollution from wastewater, to benefit Maui’s local coral reefs,” says Sturm.

Ridge to Reefs is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) formed in 2011 to help protect and restore coastal and coral reef ecosystems by reducing land-to-sea pollution with green infrastructure. The organization uses natural methods and innovative engineering to solve pressing environmental and social problems. Their expertise includes treating polluted storm and wastewater by establishing green infrastructure solutions such as constructed wetlands, race c

“As a nonprofit working for healthy coral reefs and clean ocean water, Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is extremely proud to host this presentation, as our community works on solutions to reduce pollution to our nearshore waters to help our coral reefs survive,” said Mike Fogarty, Executive Director of Maui Nui Marine Resource Council. “We are happy to see this innovative science-based pilot project come to Kihei, to use natural materials to better treat wastewater and reduce its pollution impacts on our ocean waters.”

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Sturm founded Ridge to Reefs (non-profit organization) in 2011 to support local creation and implementation of watershed plans primarily in the Chesapeake Bay and in coral reef watersheds – with the goal to achieve tangible environmental outcomes. 

Sturm and his team are currently testing a low cost, low energy, nature-based alternative septic system with University of Hawaiʻi and have constructed similar systems in Puerto Rico and American Samoa. He has worked on innovative methods to control sediment transport using vegetation and stormwater using plants and biochar amendments. Recent efforts have also focused on improving food security, soil health and agricultural resilience in the face of climate change.  

A sewage treatment project constructed by Ridge to Reefs at Guánica Hotel in Puerto Rico treats and removes wastewater from the site. PC: courtesy Maui Nui Marine Resource Council
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