Maui County faces fines for dumping wastewater, damaging coral reef

The green alga Ulva fasciata blooming in the nearshore waters of Kahekili Beach in 2004. (Credit: Jennifer Smith)
The green alga Ulva fasciata blooming in the nearshore waters of Kahekili Beach in 2004. (Credit: Jennifer Smith)

Hawaii News Now | June 2, 2014

By Tannya Joaquin

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) –

Maui County is facing fines of more than 100-million dollars for violating the Clean Water Act.

A federal court judge says the County’s breaking the law by dumping wastewater into wells from its Lahaina facility, damaging the coral reef.

Compared to the vibrant coral reef Hawaii is known for, it’s a sad scene underwater offshore of Kahekili.

Marine biologists blame algae blooms that smother the reef.

Pictures provided to Hawaii News Now by Earthjustice show algae there thriving with elevated nutrients from 3 to 5 million gallons of wastewater dumped daily from the Lahaina treatment facility.

Earthjustice Attorney David Henkin said, “This wastewater that’s being injected at Lahaina Facility is going out onto the reef. It’s destroying the reef.”

Earthjustice sued Maui County in 2012 after failing to resolve the issue out of court. On Friday, Federal District Court ruled Maui County is violating the Clean Water Act.

Jenkins said of the potential fine, “We’re already up to over 100 million dollars in potential penalties and everyday the County continues to drag its feet and refuse to address this problem, they could be looking at another 100 thousand in penalties.”

The ruling came as various State leaders toured the reef at Kahekili as part of a “floating workshop.”

Pictures show Darla White of Division of Aquatic Resources pointing out the wastewater “seep” to participants.

Henkin says the County should divert wastewater where it can do good instead of harm for the sake of the economy and environment, adding “The Reef at Kahekili used to be pristine. We’ve seen decline from 55% coral coverage to only 33% coverage and if we don’t take action, we’ll lose it.”

We reached out to Maui County’s spokesman for comment, and were told they would release a statement, but HNN did not receive a response.

Original article URL: