Maui County is appealing an attempt to expand the national scope of regulations of the federal Clean Water Act, which Congress intended as an end-of-pipe regulation appropriate for ocean sewage outfalls and other direct discharges into bodies of water. Staying the course with the U.S. Supreme Court protects our county, our taxpayers and allows the County to continue to manage its recycled water disposal in the most environmentally responsible way available and feasible.
If the 9th Circuit Court’s expansion of the Clean Water Act were allowed to stand, Maui County could be forced to abandon its longstanding green recycled water program and resort to offshore sewage outfalls. This could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Also, private entities and citizens with cesspools, septic systems or other wastewater disposal systems could face fines and liability under the Clean Water Act if it can be shown their discharges make their way to the ocean or body of water. The EPA says that the 9th Circuit’s ruling, if allowed to stand as interpretation of the Clean Water Act in the circuit, applies to septic systems as well as green infrastructure. While the state Department of Health may not have the manpower to enforce against individual homeowners, that does not mean property owners couldn’t face citizens’ suits, like this very lawsuit that Maui County itself is defending. In Massachusetts, a condominium already is facing a citizen’s lawsuit based under the same “hydrologic connection” theory underpinning the 9th Circuit ruling. Other non-sewered areas, such as Maui Meadows or the Hana district, may face similar liability.