Mayor’s Statement on Lahaina Injection Well US Supreme Court Oral Arguments

November 6, 2019, 8:53 AM HST · Updated November 6, 8:53 AM
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Oral arguments were heard today before the US Supreme Court in a case involving Maui County’s Lahaina injection wells and the interpretation of the Clean Water Act.

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino issued a statement today saying the case is about “home rule for the management of groundwater.” He released the following statement this morning:

“It was an honor to be present and witness the Supreme Court justices’ consideration of the issues raised by the County of Maui, the plaintiffs and federal regulators,” said Mayor Victorino. “Their questions were insightful, and I felt that they truly understood the complexity of the issues in this case and the potential effects of the expansion of the Clean Water Act on governmental entities and private properties.”

“Maui County has been an environmental steward since the 1970s when ocean sewage outfalls were abandoned in favor of wastewater reclamation facilities. Leaving this litigation unsettled would leave unanswered questions that would make Maui County taxpayers vulnerable to more lawsuits, uncertain regulatory requirements and staggering costs – all for what would be a negligible environmental benefit.”

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“The Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility is a model in employing treatment technologies, including ultraviolet light disinfection, to transform wastewater into the highest quality recycled water in the State of Hawaii. This direction was a conscious decision made more than 40 years ago by visionary leaders in our community, and today, the County’s water reuse program is the most robust in the State of Hawaii. One of the major concerns I have had since the plaintiffs brought this suit in 2012 was the potentially devastating effect on our water reuse program.”

“This case has never been about winning or losing. It’s about clarity in the law so that we can move forward, confident as to the clear boundaries of the law so we can implement our programs and practices accordingly. I look forward to the Court’s decision.”

The court will decide whether the Clean Water Act regulates pollution discharges that “indirectly” enter protected waters.

The lawsuit was filed by the Hawaii Wildlife Fund against Maui County over the discharge of treated sewage into the ocean via groundwater beneath the facility saying it has devastated a formerly pristine reef.

County officials say a final decision is not expected until the spring.

A transcript of the hearing is available HERE.

An audio recording will become available on Friday, Nov. 8, HERE.

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    Juan Rivera, Civil Engineer VI, head of Design and Construction Section for the Wastewater Reclamation Division of the Department of Environmental Management, provides Mayor Michael Victorino a tour of the Ultra-Violet Disinfection System at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation. This system disinfects the treated water to R1 standards for reuse or disposal. PC: County of Maui.

    Mayor Michael Victorino takes a look at the Step-feed Aeration Basin, which treats raw sewage at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility. PC: County of Maui.

    John Kudlich, wastewater treatment plant operator, shows Mayor Michael Victorino a computer monitoring operations Thursday at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility. PC: County of Maui.

    Cassie Martin, wastewater support engineer, shows Mayor Michael Victorino a sample of wastewater on Thursday at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility. PC: County of Maui.

    Mayor Michael Victorino gets a tour of one of the Clarifiers at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility. In this part of the process, treated solids are removed from the water. PC: County of Maui.

    Lahaina Wastewater Treatment Reclamation Facility. Mayor Michael Victorino takes a look at the Step-feed Aeration Basin, which treats raw sewage at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility. PC: County of Maui.

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