Attorneys for Earthjustice announced Wednesday they had filed a notice of intent to sue Maui County over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility.
The notice claims that the county has known for years that treated wastewater injected into the ground at the facility percolates into the ocean nearby, but has not made good on promises to phase out the injection wells or obtained a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit to allow the discharge.
It also states that, although the wastewater receives some treatment, it still contains bacteria that presents health risks to ocean users, as well as nitrogen and other nutrients that can stimulate reef-smothering algae blooms offshore.
County officials said they were operating the treatment plant under permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Health, and had been working cooperatively with state and federal officials to make sure they were in compliance with all their permit conditions.
Part of that cooperation includes conducting tracer and seep studies to determine if a discharge permit is needed for the facility, they said, noting that the EPA had not yet determined if such a permit was required.
They said the county was committed to environmental protection.
The Clean Water Act requires plaintiffs to file a notice of alleged violations at least 60 days before filing a lawsuit.
Earthjustice filed the notice on behalf of the West Maui Preservation Association, Surfrider Foundation’s Maui Chapter, Sierra Club – Maui Group and Hawaii Wildlife Fund.
For more coverage, see Thursday’s edition of The Maui News.