A federal court found that the County of Maui was unlawfully damaging the water quality of Maui's coast on Friday, January 23rd, with a ruling that injection well discharges from the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility are violating the Clean Water Act. Judge Susan Oki Mollway found that the County is liable for discharges from Wells 1 and 2 of this facility. This follows a ruling from May 2014 when Judge Mollway similarly found unpermitted violations from Wells 3 and 4. Surfrider Foundation Maui Chapter, alongside Sierra Club-Maui Group, West Maui Preservation Association, and Hawaii Wildlife Fund have been represented by Earthjustice in this suit that was originally filed in April 2012.
The injection wells from this wastewater facility were originally intended to dispose of the wastewater down below the water table where they could not infiltrate any other water bodies; however, we know from tracer dye studies that a portion of the millions of gallons of injected wastewater has managed to reach the nearshore waters at Kahekili Beach in West Maui, degrading water quality, killing the coral reef and leading to outbreaks of harmful invasive algae.
The full hearing on the penalties issue of the case will not be until August 2015; however, the Court’s ruling on Friday could mean that the County will be liable for upwards of $100,000 per day if they continue the multiple unpermitted discharges. The Surfrider Foundation Maui Chapter continues to encourage the County to look for opportunities to employ recycled water on the island, and otherwise reduce runoff through our Ocean Friendly Gardens program, for instance.
(Photo Credit: Heather Leslie)