There’s a lot of misinformation on social media and elsewhere, even within our own Maui County Council, about “settling” the Lahaina injection well lawsuit or “gutting the Clean Water Act.” One thing is certain: If special interest groups are allowed to control the county’s decisions, it will have long-term negative ramifications, not only for the county’s critical wastewater infrastructure and the recycled water program, but also for coastal property owners with septic or cesspools, with ripple effects into the housing market and economy.
For decades, the county has aggressively pursued wastewater reuse and produces the highest quality recycled water in the state. What is not used for landscape irrigation is disposed of into deep injection wells, operated in compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act Underground Injection Control permits.
In 2012, Earthjustice sued the county, claiming the UIC permits were not enough, and that federal Clean Water Act “NPDES” (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permits are also required. This was among a variety of similar lawsuits being brought across the nation by special interest groups seeking to expand the federal Clean Water Act to discharges to groundwater. Earthjustice prevailed at the 9th Circuit, and only now that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Maui’s case, Earthjustice is reneging on the promises it made in a 2015 settlement agreement and lobbying hard for the county to withdraw its appeal.