By Wendy Osher
County authorities on Maui say they are actively working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Health to ensure compliance with laws at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility. The statement comes on the heels of a notice filed today by the environmental law firm Earthjustice, informing the County of Maui that it plans to sue for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.
A statement issued by the Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa’s Office today says, “any talk of alleged violations is premature at best.”
The facility is currently operated under permits issued by the EPA and DOH. The county in coordination with the two agencies is in the process of conducting tracer and seep studies to determine whether a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit is needed for the Lahaina facility.
At this time, County authorities say, the EPA has not determined whether an NPDES permit is required.
A March 10, 2010 letter from David Albright, EPA Region 9′s Groundwater Officer Manager, advised that “Maui’s operation of the Lahaina WWRF may result in a discharge into navigable waters.”
At the request of the EPA, the County applied for a Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification on May 7, 2010. The certification, according to County authorities, is a necessary first step in determining whether an NPDES permit is required.
The County’s application has not yet been granted, and is pending further information from on-going scientific studies, according to County officials.
The statement released from the Mayor’s office today said that while the County “appreciates the work that Earthjustice and other organizations do for the community,” the press release the law firm issued is “misleading,” according to County authorities.
The County statement alleges inconsistencies in comments made by USGS authorities in regard to studies on macroalgal growth.
County authorities say, “the core mission of the County’s wastewater treatment division and its facilities is environmental protection.”
The County statement emphasized its commitment to working with the State of Hawai’i Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “to investigate cost-effective and scientifically reliable methods by which the federal government, the State of Hawaii, and the County of Maui can meet our common goals.”
*** The initial story on the claim filed by Earthjustice can be found at the following direct link: http://mauinow.com/2011/06/29/community-groups-to-sue-maui-over-injection-wells/