Maui News

Council Chair Lee: Seeks Unity as Injection Well Case Proceeds Through Courts

July 19, 2021, 3:58 PM HST
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“Maui County is making investments to make its wastewater system more efficient and environmentally friendly, and that effort will continue regardless of the outcome in any court case,” Council Chair Alice L. Lee said today.

“The longstanding case on injection wells in Lahaina, which is proceeding through the federal-court system, shouldn’t distract from the unified work of the council and Mayor Michael P. Victorino’s administration,” she said in a press release issued on Monday.

“Ensuring that Maui County has the best possible wastewater system—benefitting residents, taxpayers and the environment—should be a unifying issue,” said Lee, who holds the council seat for the Wailuku-Waiheʻe-Waikapū residency area. “The council and mayor have invested tens of millions of dollars in capital improvement projects for the Department of Environmental Management.

Alice Lee. PC: courtesy.

In a statement released today, Chair Lee said:

“We need to move forward with calm and determined collaboration. 

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“It’s far more efficient and productive for the council and mayor—who are responsible to Maui County residents—to make decisions on how best to provide wastewater services, and all services for that matter, in a manner that is both sensitive to our fragile ecology and fiscally responsible.

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“Unity among the council and the mayor on this issue is vital, especially now given the ongoing challenges caused by COVID-19 and the Delta variant, the mounting conflicts triggered by an unprecedented surge of visitor arrivals and a number of other significant concerns.

“We need to keep working toward a common vision that benefits the entire community.”

Hawai‘i Federal Court Judge Susan Oki Mollway last week issued an order requiring Maui County to get discharge permits for Lahaina injection wells under the Clean Water Act.

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Meantime, Councilmember Kelly Takaya King urged Mayor Michael P. Victorino to not appeal the decision.

Mayor Victorino made a brief comment about the case during his afternoon briefing on Friday, saying Corporation Counsel asked that the county not make a definitive statement. However, the mayor said the order is under review and the County has not determined what its next step will be.

On Sept. 20, 2019, the Maui County Council voted 5-4 to approve a settlement and withdraw the county from its then-pending appeal to the US Supreme Court case. In a letter on Oct. 18, 2019, the mayor announced his decision not to exercise the authority to settle the case, citing risks of “staggering costs of retrofitting treatment plants.”

If Maui County does not appeal, the environmental law firm, Earthjustice notes that settlement terms negotiated in 2015 will go into effect mandating that Maui County invest at least $2.5 million in infrastructure to reuse treated wastewater from the Lahaina facility for irrigation in arid West Maui. 

Kahekili “Airport” Beach in Kāʻanapali, Maui. PC: file Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources
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