Maui County responds to Earthjustice petition

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Earthjustice and its allied groups ratcheted up pressure on Maui County today to withdraw its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of an expansion of the federal Clean Water Act.

“The petition doesn’t speak to the merits of our appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Maui County spokesman Brian Perry said. “It seeks to create fear of national impact over what is a home rule issue for Maui County and its right to appeal a 9th Circuit decision that creates a costly and potentially impossible regulatory burden on municipalities and taxpayers.”

Mayor Michael Victorino said: “Regardless of what happens with this lawsuit, Maui County’s goal is to recycle 100 percent of its wastewater as soon as possible.”

Perry continued, saying: “The 9th Circuit ruling in 2018 is a new interpretation of a federal law that dates back to the 1970s. Maui County has been and continues to operate its Lahaina wastewater rejection wells safely and in compliance with permits under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and the state equivalent statute.”

“West Maui ocean water quality has improved since 2009, after the fish conservation practices reduced overfishing of algae-eating fish such as parrotfish and surgeonfish,” Perry said. “If ocean conditions were negatively impacted by recycled water seeping into the ocean from the injection wells, then reef conditions would continue to deteriorate. They have not.”

“The Maui Nui Marine Resource Council reported that, since 2009, there has been a 331 percent increase in parrotfish biomass on the reef and a 71 percent increase in surgeonfish numbers. These fish are growing larger and in greater numbers, meaning that they are better able to consume algae and clean reefs.”

“If Earthjustice is confident in the merits of its case, then it should have no problem taking its arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will provide clarity for exactly how the Clean Water Act applies in cases such as Maui County’s.”

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