Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Hawaii Clean Water Act Case

Popular
Degraded coral reefs at Kahekili Beach Park in west Maui, Hawaii. Peter Swarzenski / Usgs

In a case watched closely both by polluting industries and clean water advocates across the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up an appeal of a Clean Water Act case out of Hawaii concerning treated sewage flowing into the Pacific Ocean from injection wells.


Last March, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Maui County has been violating the federal Clean Water Act since its Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility was first put into operation in the early 1980s. The Lahaina facility, which serves West Maui, injects 3 to 5 million gallons of treated sewage each day into groundwater that then transports the sewage to the ocean.

"We are confident the Supreme Court will agree with the appeals court that, when Congress passed the Clean Water Act to protect our nation's waters, it did not give polluters a loophole to use groundwater as a sewer to convey harmful pollutants into our oceans, lakes and rivers," said David Henkin, Earthjustice staff attorney based in Honolulu.

In 2011, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded study used tracer dye to show conclusively that the Lahaina sewage flows with the groundwater into near-shore waters off Kahekili Beach, which is popular with local residents and tourists alike. Though treated, the sewage still contains a variety of contaminants, including excess nutrients that have been linked to algae blooms and are shown to damage coral reefs.

Four Maui community groups represented by Earthjustice—Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club-Maui Group, Surfrider Foundation and West Maui Preservation Association—sued the county in 2012, seeking to protect the sensitive coral reefs at Kahekili from harmful pollution. In 2017, the U.S. Geological Survey, the State of Hawaii's Division of Aquatic Resources, and other experts published a peer-reviewed study documenting the ongoing, serious harm to the reef at Kahekili associated with the Lahaina facility's discharges to the ocean.

Over the past four decades, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and states across the country have used their Clean Water Act authority to prevent a variety of industries—including wastewater treatment facilities, chemical plants, concentrated animal feeding operations, mines, and oil and gas waste-treatment facilities—from contaminating our nation's waters via groundwater. The final outcome of this case could determine whether the public will continue to be protected from these harmful polluting activities.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Workers convert the Scottish Events Campus, where COP26 was to be held, into a field hospital to treat COVID-19 patients. ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP via Getty Images

The most important international climate talks since the Paris agreement was reached in 2015 have been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view of a crude oil storage facility of Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) in the Krasnodar Territory. Vitaly Timkiv / TASS / Getty Images

Oil rigs around the world keep pulling crude oil out of the ground, but the global pandemic has sent shockwaves into the market. The supply is up, but demand has plummeted now that industry has ground to a halt, highways are empty, and airplanes are parked in hangars.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Examples (from left) of a lead pipe, a corroded steel pipe and a lead pipe treated with protective orthophosphate. U.S. EPA Region 5

Under an agreement negotiated by community groups — represented by NRDC and the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project — the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) will remove thousands of lead water pipes by 2026 in order to address the chronically high lead levels in the city's drinking water and protect residents' health.

Read More Show Less
ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

By Dave Cooke

So, they finally went and did it — the Trump administration just finalized a rule to undo requirements on manufacturers to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger cars and trucks. Even with the economy at the brink of a recession, they went forward with a policy they know is bad for consumers — their own analysis shows that American drivers are going to spend hundreds of dollars more in fuel as a result of this stupid policy — but they went ahead and did it anyway.

Read More Show Less

By Richard Connor

A blood test that screens for more than 50 types of cancer could help doctors treat patients at an earlier stage than previously possible, a new study shows. The method was used to screen for more than 50 types of cancer — including particularly deadly variants such as pancreatic, ovarian, bowel and brain.

Read More Show Less