For Immediate Release: July 16, 2021
Press Release by:
Councilmember Kelly Takaya King
Maui County Council
Councilmember King: County should end Clean Water Act case
KIHEI, Hawaiʻi—One day after federal Judge Susan Oki Mollway issued an order requiring Maui County to get discharge permits for Lahaina injection wells under the Clean Water Act,Councilmember Kelly Takaya King said today she urges Mayor Michael P. Victorino to not appeal the decision.
“Yesterday’s ruling should be our final wakeup call,” King said about the case of Hawaii Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui. “The issue has been clarified, and there is no reason to appeal or prolong the inevitable.”
On Sept. 20, 2019, the Maui County Council voted 5-4 to approve a settlement and withdraw the county from its then-pending appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court case. In a letter on Oct. 18, 2019, the mayor announced his decision not to exercise the authority to settle the case, citing risks of “staggering costs of retrofitting treatment plants.”
King noted the plaintiffs, represented by attorneys at Earthjustice, now have prevailed twice in U.S. District Court in Honolulu, once at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and, in landmark ruling once at the U.S. Supreme Court on April 23, 2020, at a cost of millions of dollars to county taxpayers.
According to news stories, county attorneys argued only 2% of the wastewater flowing through two of its injection wells were measured for pollutants at monitoring sites along the shoreline.
In her written opinion, Judge Mollway said a significant amount of pollutants enter the ocean, regardless if they are diluted. She used an analogy of the coronavirus pandemic to debunk the county’s 2% argument, noting that even a small fraction of millions of gallons of wastewater is still a high volume of pollution.
“This country has a population of over 300 million,” Mollway wrote. “If 2 percent of the population died from COVID-19, that would represent more than 6 million individuals.
“Just because 98 percent of the population survived would not mean that the federal government should leave entirely unregulated all matters relating to COVID-19.”
“The main message from this case is that we hope we can learn from this experience for the future, and we shouldn’t waste precious time and resources fighting with our own residents who have legitimate concerns about the environment,” said King, who is in her third term holding the council seat for the South Maui residency area.
“We should be collaborating with experts and advocates on solutions to move forward and obtain necessary permits, instead of continuing to fight in court for the right to pollute.”
Yesterday’s ruling can be found at https://tinyurl.com/tfs3p6tj.