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Maui County Violates Clean Water Act, Court Finds

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:Mollway ruling.pdf

Environment Hawai`i has reported extensively on the Lahaina plant. See, for example, the cover article in our February 2012 edition.

Jury Finds State Owns
Haleakala Bridle Trail

Photo by Bryan Berkowitz/PATH

The long and acrimonious dispute over ownership of the Haleakala Trail has been decided. On April 23, a jury determined that the state of Hawai`i does indeed own the six-foot-wide trail extending from Makawao up to Haleakala crater.

As Environment Hawai`i reported in our February 2014 edition, the state had come to the lawsuit, filed by Public Access Trails Hawai`i (PATH), with its feet dragging. For years, state attorneys and the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife had attempted to come to an agreement with adjoining landowner Haleakala Ranch, allowing for public access, subject to very stringent limits. But earlier this year, the Board of Land and Natural Resources rejected that, and the lawsuit, filed in 2011, went to jury trial.

According to a statement from PATH, “At trial, the state and plaintiffs presented evidence showing public use and government ownership of Haleakala Trail, including documents from the Hawai‘i State archives, government maps, newspapers, legislative journals, and travel narratives including those from Mark Twain, Jack London and Isabella Bird. There was also expert testimony from Anthony Crook, a professional surveyor, Doris Moana Rowland, the Na Ala Hele State title abstractor, and Richard Stevens, Ph.D., a world historian and expert trail researcher….

“Evidence at trial demonstrated that Haleakala Trail was a continuation of a long-established native Hawaiian trail, which connected to an overland pass across East Maui through Haleakala Crater. Westerners began ascending Haleakala Trail long before the Mahele of 1848. Later, the government significantly improved Haleakala Trail through two major public work projects, by the Kingdom of Hawai‘i in 1889 and by the Territory of Hawai‘i in 1905. “

According to David Brown, PATH’s executive director, the next and final phase of the trial will determine the issues remaining in the case—namely historic preservation of Haleakala Trail and securing meaningful public access. “We have a moral obligation to protect Hawai‘i’s past, including its rich history of trails,” Brown said. “The longer we wait to protect Hawai‘i’s cultural legacy, the greater the risk it will be lost forever for generations to come.”

For details, or to learn more about PATH, see


Environment Hawai`i has been asked to post the following notice:

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement is investigating thefts of very rare endangered plants at specific locations on Hawai`i island. Take of listed plants protected under the federal endangered species act is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000, one year in jail or both.

Please call 808-933-6964 to provide information confidentially.

Anyone who provides key information resulting in a conviction of those involved may be considered to receive a reward."

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