Maui County’s operation of its Lahaina sewage treatment plant has been found to violate the federal Clean Water Act.
U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway issued a ruling on May 30 finding that the four injection wells used by the plant do, in fact, discharge treated effluent into the waters off Kahekili Beach on the west side of Maui island. Mollway based her ruling in large part on the results of tracer dye tests that followed the fate of injectate from the plant to coastal waters.
Maui County sought to have the judge delay her ruling in light of its application to the state Department of Health for an NPDES permit (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System). As Mollway notes, however, the county applied for the permit on November 14, 2012, after the lawsuit had been filed. “As of March 6, 2014, the DOH had ‘not made a tentative or preliminary determination on the application.’”
Only on May 22, after Mollway had already heard arguments from the respective parties, did the state issue a draft permit to the county. The state attorney general notified the judge that the county would have until June 9 to comment on the draft permit.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Hawai`i Wildlife Fund, the Sierra Club-Maui Group, Surfrider Foundation, and the West Maui Preservation Association. They were represented by David Henkin of the Mid-Pacific office of Earthjustice.
To read Mollway’s damning, 59-page ruling, click here: Lahaina_STP_order
Environment Hawai`i has reported extensively on the Lahaina plant. See, for example, the cover article in our February 2012 edition.