Maui County Loses Again In Federal Court Over Pollution Discharges – Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii 2021-07-21 06:05:45 –

July 16, 2021

Washington — A federal judge said Thursday that Maui County couldn’t drain treated sewage into the ocean without the permission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ending a 10-year-old stand-off over the scope of the Clean Water Act. It was decided that there is a possibility of hitting.

The incident was between a group of millions of gallons of counties pumped into the sea from a wastewater treatment facility in Lahaina and a group of environmental nonprofits, led by the Hawaii Wildlife Foundation, the Maui Sierra Club, and the Surf Rider Foundation. It has its roots in conflict.

The treated sewage does not flow directly into the sea, but the county uses injection wells to pump it into groundwater. The sewage then permeates the groundwater and reaches the sea, especially choking the coral reefs around Kahekiri Beach Park.

Supreme Court of the United States Governed in April 2020 Maui County appeared to be circumventing the Clean Water Act by refusing to obtain a permit from the EPA.

This decision has been criticized by both Maui County and the Trump Cabinet, and the Clean Water Act should be applied to wastewater that flows directly into national rivers, lakes and seas, rather than pollutants that take more detour routes. Claimed to be. Groundwater etc.

Many environmental groups, including Earth Justice, on behalf of Maui’s plaintiffs, have not interpreted such legislation. You can enact the Clean Water Act As a result, more toxins invade US waterways.

Some of the country’s largest pollutants, including those representing the fossil fuel industry and large-scale agriculture, Supporting Maui County Initiatives..

After supporting global justice, the Supreme Court filed a case to determine whether the treated sewage that Maui County had pumped into groundwater was “functionally equivalent” to discharging pollutants directly into the sea. I sent it back to the US District Court in Hawaii.

The county is again in dispute, and previous analysis proving that sewage from Lahaina’s wastewater treatment facility is flowing into the sea and harming the environment is flawed or inconclusive in court documents. Insisted on.

For example, county lawyers actually measured pollutants at coastline surveillance sites in only 2% of the wastewater flowing through two injection wells as part of an attempt to question what happened to the remaining 98%. Claimed to have been done. Treated sewage.

Judge Susan Okimorway of the District Court did not buy it.

In a written opinion, Molway said there was “no controversy” that 100% of the treated wastewater discharged from the Lahaina treatment plant would flow into the sea protected by the Clean Water Act.

Some of the pollutants are diluted, but “still a significant amount of pollutants invade the ocean,” she said.

David Henkin of Earthjustice made a claim in the Supreme Court on behalf of the Hawaii Wildlife Foundation and other environmental groups. Nick Grube / Civil Beat

She then used an analogy related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to condemn the county’s 2% debate and point out that even a small portion of the millions of gallons of wastewater is still heavily polluted. did.

“The country has a population of over 300 million,” Mollway writes. “If 2 percent of the population died of COVID-19, that would be more than 6 million. Just because 98 percent of the population survived, the federal government completely addressed all issues related to COVID-19. It doesn’t mean that it needs to be left unregulated. “

She said more than 600,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States alone so far.

Earth Justice celebrated Molway’s decision in a Friday press release, saying the ruling would help set the stage for future legal battles, including leaks in pipelines, fertilizer lagoons and coal ash ponds.

“The country’s community is fighting to protect rivers, lakes and oceans from groundwater pollution, from Hawaii to New York and from Alabama to Montana,” said David Henkin, a lawyer for global justice, in a statement. Stated. “As the first court to apply the Supreme Court’s test, the Federal Court of Justice’s decision is a victory for clean water, justice, and common sense.”

Henkin, based in Honolulu, was a lawyer who successfully discussed the case in the High Court.

It’s up to Maui County to come next. According to Earthjustice, if the county does not appeal to Mollway’s decision, the county will need to spend $ 2.5 million on infrastructure so that the 2015 settlement agreement will come into effect and the treated wastewater in West Maui can be used for irrigation purposes. there is.

Mayor Michael Victorino of Maui County declined to request an interview on the decision and issued a statement through a spokesman.

“The county is disappointed with the district court’s ruling, but is proud of the environmental management that began decades ago when its leaders decided to focus on water regeneration and reuse rather than sea spills. I have it, “said Victorino.

“The Lahaina facility, which was the subject of this proceeding, treats the inflowing wastewater to the highest quality R1 in the state. This recycled water is used for irrigation and the surplus is disposed of in deep wells. The nasty side is the potential impact on the county’s reclaimed water program. “

Victorino did not specifically mention whether the county would appeal Morway’s decision. He said the county submitted a pollution emission permit application to the Hawaii Department of Health in 2012, when the proceedings were filed.

He said the application was still pending and the county would continue to work with state regulators.

Maui County Civil Beat coverage is partially supported by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

Honolulu Civil Beat We are dedicated to fostering a gathering of informed citizens, all striving to make Hawaii a more livable place. We achieve this through investigative journalism and guard dog journalism, detailed corporate reporting, analysis and commentary, providing our readers with a broader view of issues that are important to our community.

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