Lahaina Injection Wells Lawsuit: Enough Already! Just Fix the Problem

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser agrees – Enough already, Maui County! Stop trying to appeal the lawsuit and start fixing the problem!


Call/Email the Mayor & Maui Council Chair and say “ENOUGH ALREADY! Stop wasting the public’s money to defend illegal injection wells in West Maui. Spend the money instead on fixing the problem!”

Mayor Alan Arakawa

Council Chair Mike White


Background: $3 million down the toilet – Enough Already!

The County paid a main land law firm $3 million to defend its actions of injecting treated wastewater into the ocean without proper state oversight. The County was joined in its fight by the Association of American Railroads, the American Iron and Steel Institute, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Mining Association and the Fertilizer Institute.

The County lost the original court case but kept filing appeals – in total they’ve spent $3 million and lost all 4 times in court. Sierra Club Maui Group was one of 4 plaintiffs in the case, and just this month the County lost ANOTHER appeal.

The County COULD have used that money to build the infrastructure we need to support water recycling. Instead, now they’re talking about filing MORE appeals. Will this be another $3 million of public money down the toilet?

Call or email the mayor and council chair and say: Enough Already – Stop spending the public’s money on lawsuits and just fix the problem!

Campaign and meme from Tamara Paltin and

Sierra Club stops injection wells in West Maui

Sierra Club Maui Group, EarthJustice, Hawai?i Wildlife Fund, Surfrider Foundation, and West Maui Preservation Association have reached a settlement with the County of Maui to treat, divert and reuse the waste water which the County currently injects into wells.

Earlier in the year, a court ruled that the County of Maui was acting illegally by injecting R2 water into sewage injection wells. A dye study revealed the sewage was seeping into the ocean near the Kahikili reef, polluting Kahekili Beach Park in West Maui, killing coral reef and triggering outbreaks of invasive algae.

The ruling in January required that the county pay penalties up to $37,500 per violation of the Clean Water act. Multiple violations occur every day that the county operates the facility. Maximum penalties could have already exceeded $100 million. Daily fines of $100,000 were being incurred each day.

This settlement caps the fine that Maui County must pay at $100,000 but requres that they build a $2.5 million water-reuse project in West Maui.

Maui Sierra Club Conservation Chair, Lucienne de Naie said,

“This settlement is a major victory in getting the County to stop using the reef off of Kahekili Beach as its wastewater dumping ground. It requires the County to invest in sensible alternatives to injection, meeting existing demand for precious water in West Maui by constructing infrastructure to get treated wastewater to golf courses, resorts, and others.”

Lance D. Collins, spokesperson for West Maui Preservation Association released a statement saying,

“It’s disappointing that the County chose to fight tooth and nail, wasting taxpayer money on expensive mainland lawyers rather than trying to protect the reefs at Kahekili Beach. We hope the settlement is a turn in the right direction. Reusing wastewater is good for the reef and good for West Maui’s pressing water needs.”

ES-6: Infrared SST showing values of terestrial and marine waters, and the intertidal macroalgae. Image courtesy Tracer Study report conducted by UH for state DOH, and US EPA. Access to report provided by Earthjustice.
ES-6: Infrared SST showing values of terestrial and marine waters, and the intertidal macroalgae. Image courtesy Tracer Study report conducted by UH for state DOH, and US EPA. Access to report provided by Earthjustice.

MauiNow Reports Lahaina Waste Water Near Settlement

Wendy Osher is reporting via MauiNow that a settlement is near with the parties in the clean water complaint on the Lahaina  Sewage Injection wells.

A trial that was scheduled to get underway this week has been moved to Nov. 17, 2015 to allow parties time to finalize and approve the settlement, said David Henkin, Staff Attorney Earthjustice.

In January, a federal court ruled that illegal discharge of wastewater had occurred in violation of the federal Clean Water Act, affecting offshore waters at the popular Kahekili Beach Park in West Maui.


Here’s a wrap up of previous actions:


January 26, 2015 | Legal Document

Maui Wastewater Decision 1-23-15

Second decision finding that Maui County is illegally discharging wastewater from a water treatment facility

July 23, 2013 | Case

Suing to Stop Illegal Sewage Discharges in Maui

Four Hawai?i community groups, represented by Earthjustice, have filed suit under the federal Clean Water Act to stop Maui County from discharging wastewater into the ocean from its Lahaina treatment plant without a permit. Millions of gallons of wastewater injected into wells at the facility each day surface offshore of popular Kahekili Beach Park in West Maui, killing the coral reef and triggering outbreaks of invasive algae.

April 16, 2012 | Legal Document

Lahaina Injection Wells: Complaint

This complaint alleges violations under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, also known as the Clean Water Act, caused by the discharge into the waters of West Maui of wastewater from injection wells operated by defendant County of Maui at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility without the required National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

Tell the Maui County Council to fund water re-use infrastructure

Don’t waste water: invest in reuse.

The Mayor’s budget had included $7,000,000 for piping to allow reclaimed water to be used in Lahaina for  irrigation where it is badly needed. The Council will vote May 26th on a budget that leaves out this appropriation and continues the practice of wasting this valuable resource by injecting it into the ocean where it leads to excessive seaweed growth that can smother the reefs.

Please sign the petition asking them to put the money for the recycled water infrastructure back into the budget as a long term investment in healthier oceans.

[emailpetition id=”3″]


Comments on Kahului Wastewater Treatment Plant Shoreline Hardening

Sierra Club Maui Group
PO Box 791180, Paia, HI 96779

To: Hawaii State Board of Land and Natural Resources
Kalanimoku Building, 1151 Punchbowl Street
Honolulu, HI 96813


Conservation District Use Application (CDUA) MA-3688 for the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility’s Shoreline Protection Extension by the County of Maui -Department of Environmental Management Located at 281 Amala Place, Kahului, Maui, Portion of Tax Map Key: (2) 3-8-001:188 and Adjacent Submerged Land.

Aloha Board Members and DLNR Staff:

Sierra Club Maui Group, on behalf of its over 600 members in Maui County, asks that the Board of Natural Resources deny the CDUA MA-3688 permit request, or at the very least, defer the matter until Board members have a full understanding of the alternative options available to Maui County.

As guardians of our Public Trust resources, the BLNR has a duty to ensure that wastewater treatment options for the central Maui area comply with the Constitutional mandate to protect Public Trust resources, follow adopted long-range planning guidelines and do not further increase the vulnerability of wastewater facilities to the effects of natural hazards and impacts of rising sea levels.

We urge the BLNR to deny or defer acceptance of this permit application for the following reasons:

  1. The planned revetment will adversely affect sand loss on adjacent coastal areas which are already highly prone to erosion.

  2. Loss of beaches impacts traditional and customary use of the shoreline as well as the health of offshore reefs and fisheries, when scoured sand is deposited on top of reefs or fills in fishery areas. These are Public Trust resources that the Board is sworn to protect and this action does not comply with that mandate.

  3. The revetment will add large boulders along the shoreline that can become dangerous debris in the event of a tsunami. Since the proposed project is in a known and historic tsunami impact zone, this solution to the current erosion problem should not be found acceptable by BLNR.

  4. The proposed action is part of a larger action to extend the life cycle of an inefficient, aging treatment facility in a high hazard zone. Alternative actions, such as a proposed inland state-of-the-art Central Maui wastewater facility proposed by private contractors, should have been considered as alternative actions, but were not. More time is needed to make a sound decision.

  5. The continued use of the injection wells at the Kahului facility impairs the water quality for ocean recreational users and marine life and the revetment merely extends that use.

  6. BLNR should ask the county to come back with a plan that utilizes the reclaimed water to substitute for imported east Maui stream water, rather than spending millions to protect the existing injection wells, thereby solving two problems with sound conservation planning.

  1. Further shoreline hardening is discouraged by state and County coastal planners and is contrary to policies in the Countywide Policy Plan, Maui island Plan and Kahului-Wailuku Community Plan.

  2. The BLNR as the guardian of our coastal waters should be encouraging Maui County to replace this aging, substandard treatment facility (the only facility on Maui not producing R-1 quality water) with an inland facility on land that is available near the Central Maui landfill, where the sludge is currently transported.

  3. The continued costs of defending this poorly sited facility vs the costs of orderly planning for a new public-private inland facility should be clearly revealed, discussed and taken into account by the BLNR in their decision-making.

  4. The high hazard coastal site of the present sewage treatment facility would be better suited for future productive harbor-related use, wildlife habitat and coastal park.

  5. The existing Kahului treatment plant area is adjacent to critical habitat area (Kanaha Pond and beach park) for the endangered native A’eo (Himantopus Knudseni) , Koloa (Anas Wyvilliana), Coot (Fulica alai) and Blackburn Sphinx moth (Manduca blackburni).

  6. High hazard events such as hurricane, flooding, sea level rise or tsunami that affect the treatment plant will drive the sewer effluent into these important habitat areas. The proposed revetment is not likely to protect against any natural hazards except lower wave action, and even then, other forms of temporary wave deflection strategies are likely to have similar benefits and fewer impacts.

Thank you for your consideration of the health of Maui’s Public Trust resources during your decision-making on this item. Denial or deferment of the permit request is the proper action to uphold your responsibility to our resources, held in trust for present and future generations.

Sierra Club Maui Group

Lucienne de Naie, Conservation Chair.

Scientific Study Proves Maui County Wastewater Discharges Endanger Nearshore Water Quality

County’s sewage injections traced to West Maui coastal waters

Lahaina, HI — Scientists from the University of Hawai‘i have released a final study vindicating the concerns of Maui citizen groups that sued Maui County last year under the federal Clean water Act and state water quality laws for illegally discharging wastewater into the ocean from its Lahaina treatment facility’s injection wells.

Read moreScientific Study Proves Maui County Wastewater Discharges Endanger Nearshore Water Quality