Council Committee Votes to Settle Lahaina Sewage Recovery Facility Lawsuit
After two days of great drama which drew nearly 100 witnesses and gave rise to marathon meetings of Maui County Council Government, Ethics and Transparency Committee, council members voted 5-3 (an apology) to settle legal action against the county through Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club Maui, Surfrider Foundation, and West Maui Preservation Association. The case, which attracted national attention for its implications for interpretations of the Water purification law, must be heard before Supreme Court of the United States November 6. However, if the settlement resolution goes through the full board and is authorized, the matter will be removed from the high court’s docket and the previous decision of the Ninth Circuit Court amount to.
Although the case stems from differing interpretations of what constitutes a “point source” of wastewater discharge and therefore the permits required for Lahaina injection wells, testimony and arguments revolved around the consequences of maintaining of the Ninth Circuit Court ruling and speculation about what might happen if the case goes to the Supreme Court. An unprecedented ninety-nine witnesses appeared in the Departmental Council Chambers to weigh Tuesday, September 3, leading the meeting at the eleventh hour. As the day dragged on and the witnesses in the queue passed, only 64 out of 99 made it to the podium.
A strong majority urged the council to vote to settle, citing damage to the West Maui reef that peer-reviewed studies have linked to sewage that continues to seep into ocean waters from the Lahaina Wastewater Collection Facility injection wells via the water table. Those supporting the settlement have also expressed concern that allowing the Supreme Court – which holds two of the that of President Trump candidates – speaking out on the case would serve to advance the administration’s agenda to dismantle environmental protections, leading to nationwide degradation. Some added that a bylaw would give the county the extra push it needs to take sewage issues seriously.
About 10 witnesses supported the Supreme Court’s appeal, the position of Mayor Michael Victorino administration. They raised concerns about the costs of implementing alternative wastewater management systems, the potential liability of sump and septic tank owners, and the burden of adding regulations and licensing processes to future ones. construction projects.
Chairman of the GET Committee Mike Molina kept his cards near the vest that night, saying he was still considering his vote. After the last testimony was taken and the meeting was suspended, Molina told me that the testimony was “Convincing… for me, it’s going to be a gambling decision. I could stick with the decision I made.” took the first round or I might change my mind. I am still processing all the information.
Earlier in the year, Molina voted not to settle the lawsuit and the committee found itself in a deadlock at 4-4. “I don’t want to neglect anything,” Molina said of her decision to bring the settlement resolution back to her committee. “Let’s take it out, no matter how hard it is. This is what we were elected for. Let’s finally put an end to this.
One thing he was not careful about, however, was his enjoyment with audience participation, especially among young people. “I was really happy to see the younger ones come out,” he said. “It’s an issue that made our community get involved, and I like it.
By the end of the second committee meeting on Friday, September 6, council members were ready for a vote. Council members Mike Molina, Kelly King, Tamara Paltin, Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, and Shane Sinenci voted to settle the case and remove it from the Supreme Court. Council members Tasha Kama, Alice Lee, and Yuki Lei Sugimura rejected the settlement resolution and preferred to take the case to the Supreme Court. Board Member Riki Hokama was excused.
“We applaud the majority of the council for taking an important step forward and paving the way for the county to work together at home to resolve the issues at the Lahaina plant,” the manager said. executive of HWF. Anne-Bernard in comments to Earth justice. West Maui Representative Angus McKelvey also welcomed the decision, issuing a statement saying “This is a big step forward for the restoration and protection of our marine environment and I hope the public, as well as supporting members of the council, will remain vigilant about it. ‘to come up”.
Mayor Victorino was not so festive. “The effects of the expansion of the Clean Water Act by the Ninth Circuit Court on our already tight housing market could be serious,” he said in a statement. “For county and private projects, we are now looking at expensive and possibly inaccessible permits, which adds expense and uncertainty. Our recycled water program, which uses that same water on earth, could be compromised. People were already worried about the cost of converting sumps at a later date, may now have to do it much sooner, and septic tanks in some areas are unlikely to be options as they violate the Clean Water Act under the decision of the ninth circuit.
The settlement resolution will now go to the entire county council for a vote.
Photo 1 by Axel Bières.