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Maui Water Quality Group Settles Injection Well Litigation with County

The Puko’a o Kama Alliance, a water quality group on Maui, has reportedly settled a case involving injection well litigation with the County of Maui.

Attorney for the group, Lance D. Collins says that after over a decade of litigation, the Puko’a o Kama Alliance has agreed to settle its case in exchange for the County’s commitment to continue reducing its reliance on injection wells [1] in South Maui.

“Puko’a o Kama has been monitoring the Lahaina injection well case. Puko’a supports our island community in moving our county away from the use of injection wells entirely. The County should end the costly and seemingly endless litigation in the Lahaina case and move forward with solutions for our island and our future. Puko’a has faith the parties in that case can come together in resolution and begin the work of implementing solutions. It is our hope and belief that settling our case will show that resolving lawsuits in good faith will not lead to more litigation,” said Collins.

In the initial lawsuit, the Puko’a o Kama Alliance alleged harms caused by the use of underground injection wells to dispose of treated sewage. The group alleged impacts to marine and coastal resources as well as negative impacts to traditional and customary practices of Native Hawaiians in South Maui.

The case was stayed by retired Judge Joel August and referred to the Department of Health for its consideration. The Department of Health declined to take a position and the case was further stayed by Judge Rhonda Loo pending the final outcome of the Lahaina injection well case now before the US Supreme Court.

“We have always had a great concern with how injection wells have negatively impacted traditional and customary practices in South Maui and impairing water quality in general. The Puko’a o Kama Alliance strongly believes new council and the new administration will make good on its commitment to expand the reuse program and to reduce and eliminate the management of wastewater by injection wells. The purpose of the litigation was to achieve this goal,” said Daniel Kanahele, po’o for the Puko’a o Kama Alliance.

In April, Mayor Michael Victorino announced his commitment to resurrecting Maui County’s longtime water reuse program [2]. The program had been put on hold due to pending litigation involving the Department of Environmental Management’s permitted use of injection wells.

As part of its fiscal 2020 budget deliberations, the Maui County Council is currently reviewing the administration’s recycled water project proposals, which includes $750,000 in plant pump station upgrades in Kīhei.