U.S. Supreme Court rules on clean water violations off Maui shores

Environmentalists say Maui County's wastewater injection well violate the Clean Water Act.
Environmentalists say Maui County's wastewater injection well violate the Clean Water Act.(Marley Rutkowski)
Updated: Apr. 23, 2020 at 4:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A major ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday is a win for Maui County’s reefs and environmentalists.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a claim by Maui County that the Clean Water Act does not apply to wastewater that seeped from its Lahaina injection wells into the ocean. 

The Trump Administration sided with Maui County, but in Thursday’s 6 to 3 ruling, the justices sent the case back to a lower court to reconsider with a different standard. 

Environmentalists, who’ve been fighting this for more than a decade, say it’s a huge victory because it paves the way for new lawsuits over certain groundwater discharge.

“I’ve basically been crying for the past 15 minutes, so happy this couldn’t be better news to have the Supreme Court with an overwhelming decision deciding in our favor to protect our waters," Hannah Bernard of the Hawaii Wildlife Fund said. "And now we get to go back to the County of Maui and say see we won twice in the lower courts because we were in the right, and now its time to clean up our mess.”

“This will make all the difference in stopping the practice of polluting our oceans, which our county has been doing for decades. We’ve been fighting this battle for more than a decade,” Bernard added.

Environmentalists say the ruling will lead to new preventative measures to stop sewage discharge from reaching the ocean.

In a statement, Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said, “This ruling is a step toward the clarity we have advocated for. The Supreme Court agreed with the County of Maui that the 9th Circuit ruling was too broad and could possibly affect millions of homeowners with septic systems.”

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