Maui County committee hears injection well case testimony

WAILUKU — Environmental groups that sued over a Hawaii county’s use of injection wells have testified before county officials who will decide whether to continue an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, officials said.

A majority of those testifying asked the county to withdraw an appeal of the case to the Supreme Court, The Maui News reported Wednesday.

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Nearly 100 people asked to testify before the Maui County Committee on Governance, Ethics, and Transparency, but only 64 spoke, officials said.

The committee is expected to reconvene Friday to vote on a settlement resolution to prevent the case from reaching the Supreme Court, officials said.

The case involves treated wastewater injected into west Maui wells that eventually reaches the ocean.

Environmental groups including Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Surfrider Foundation, West Maui Preservation Association and the Sierra Club sued the county in 2012 over the use of injection wells at the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility, saying the wastewater damages reefs and pollutes water.

The U.S. District Court in Hawaii ruled in 2014 that the injection wells violated the federal Clean Water Act. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case Nov. 6.

The plaintiffs never thought taking the case to the Supreme Court was a good idea, but allowed the county to invoke its right, said Isaac Moriwake of environmental law organization Earthjustice.

“We are urging you absolutely, that’s not the right way to go,” Moriwake told the committee.

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Some county officials said they believe injection wells are a safe method to dispose of wastewater without adverse effects.

“We are not trying to pollute the ocean,” said Scott Rollins, head of the county’s Wastewater Reclamation Division.

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