Statement by Representative McKelvey on Landmark U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Clean Water Act Case
State Representative Angus McKelvey (District 10 – West Maui, Maalaea, North Kihei), who fought with others to stave off an attempt by Maui County and the Trump Administration to substantially weaken the Clean Water Act, announced that the United States Supreme Court has ruled against Maui County in that the Clean Water Act requires the federal government to regulate groundwater pollutants that find their way into navigable waters, such as oceans like off the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility. “With all the stressors and bad news of the COVID-19 in the media, I was thrilled to get this piece of good news this morning because this has been such a critical issue for me personally, as well as for Maui and across the country,” McKelvey said. “The 6-3 ruling makes it very clear that the Clean Water Act requires a permit for the nitrogen rich discharge from Maui County’s injection wells that make its way into the near shore ocean waters”, McKelvey said. “The Courts ruling also dispels the claim that the clean drinking water standard is not the standard to be solely applied.” “I applaud the new test created by the Supreme Court because it makes it clear that the County needs a permit for their injection wells, while ensuring homeowners and others won’t have to go through any type of federal permits insofar as the Clean Water Act goes,” McKelvey said. “Although the test would scale back on a lower court’s previous ruling, it is significantly broader than the position the County and the Trump Administration had taken in arguing for no suchpermits.”
According to McKelvey, permits will be required for the discharge of pollutants that reach navigable waters via groundwater, if the discharge is the "functional equivalent" of direct from the source, as with the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility.
“While it was argued that requiring permits for discharges of pollution through groundwater into navigable waters would vastly expand the scope of the Clean Water Act, the Court was on point in noting that the EPA has applied such permits to discharges like the ones with the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility for over 30 years,” McKelvey added.