WAILUKU, Maui, Hawaii – The County of Maui operates its Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility under permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the State of Hawaii’s Department of Health (“DOH”).  The County of Maui has worked cooperatively with state and federal officials to ensure that the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility is in compliance with all permit conditions and all applicable laws in the past, and continues to do so currently.

Part of this cooperative process between the County, the EPA, and DOH includes scientific tracer and seep studies to determine whether a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit is needed for the Lahaina facility.  Until those studies are complete, any talk of alleged violations is premature at best.

At this time, EPA has not determined whether an NPDES permit is required.  A March 10, 2010 letter from David Albright, EPA Region 9’s Groundwater Officer Manager, advised that “Maui’s operation of the Lahaina WWRF may result in a discharge into navigable waters.”  At EPA’s request, the County applied for a Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification on May 7, 2010.  This certification is a necessary first step in determining whether an NPDES permit is required.  We have included a scanned copy of the front page of the County’s May 7, 2010 application.   The County’s application has not yet been granted, pending further information from on-going scientific studies.

The County is dedicated towards protecting the environment and appreciates the work that Earthjustice and other organizations do for the community.  In this case, however, their press release may have been misleading.  For example, Charles Hunt, the principal investigator for the United States Geologic Survey study quoted in Earthjustice’s press release, has publicly stated that his report “does not determine causes of macroalgal blooms or the role of nutrients in macroalgal growth.” in a letter to the editor published in the Maui News on July 8, 2010.  Mr. Hunt further stated that USGS’s studies “have not attempted to determine a connection between wastewater injection and algae.” This letter has also been included as an attachment.

The core mission of the County’s wastewater treatment division and its facilities is environmental protection.  We are committed to working with the State of Hawaii Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate cost-effective and scientifically reliable methods by which the federal government, the State of Hawaii, and the County of Maui can meet our common goals.

Update submitted by the county of Maui

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