Sierra Club Wins Lahaina Injection Sewage Lawsuit

Since the early 1990s, Maui County has been aware of a probable connection between the wastewater it injects into the ground below the Lahaina sewage treatment plant and the nearby coastal waters.

And for almost as long, it has clung to the position that despite growing evidence of the connection, it did not need to obtain the permit under the Clean Water Act that would allow it to legally discharge pollutants.

On May 30, the judge handed down a 59-page order that tossed out every argument the county made, leaving it potentially liable for many millions of dollars in fines. David Henkin, the Earthjustice attorney who argued the case on behalf of the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, the Sierra Club-Maui Group, the Surfrider Foundation, and the West Maui Preservation Association, said in a news release that the maximum penalties “already exceed $100 million, and the meter is ticking at a rate of over $100,000 per day.”

The County rejected a settlement offer that would have avoided fines and far less in remedial actions that would have been win-win.