More testimony expected on Maui appeal to Supreme Court

Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Sept. 16, 2019

By Rob Shikina 


The Maui County Council is set to receive public testimony Friday about a resolution to drop the county’s appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding its discharge of treated wastewater from its Lahaina plant.


The testimony will be received during the same Council meeting where the resolution will be recommended for adoption by the Council’s Governance, Ethics, and Transparency committee.


Councilwoman Tamara Paltin, who also sits on the governance committee, said by phone Sunday that whether the full Council adopts the resolution Friday could depend on how many people show up to testify and how much time the Council has. She said a hearing before the committee earlier this month about the resolution lasted 12 hours.


At issue is a lawsuit filed in 2012 under the federal Clean Water Act by four environmental groups that claimed the county’s injection wells that discharged treated wastewater into the ocean near Kahekili Beach Park in West Maui were a violation of federal law.


An Environmental Protection Agency-funded study in 2011 used tracer dye to link the Lahaina sewage to near-shore waters off Kahe­kili Beach, and a 2017 U.S. Geological Survey study concluded that discharge from the plant was undermining the coral reefs there.


The county lost the court case in District Court in Hawaii in 2014 and its appeal before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2018. The Supreme Court accepted the case in February after President Donald Trump’s administration urged the high court to hear it. Oral arguments before the Supreme Court are scheduled for Nov. 6.


A Supreme Court opinion on the case could restrict the Clean Water Act’s protections throughout the nation, a Council resolution said. The proposed settlement would dismiss the appeal and include stipulations that the county fund projects to divert treated wastewater from the injection wells for reuse.


Friday’s Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in the Council Chamber.


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