The Clean Water Act in Hawaii

The Clean Water Act, or CWA forbids “any addition” of any pollutant from “any point source” to “navigable waters” without an appropriate permit from the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. The County of Maui’s wastewater reclamation facility sent millions of gallons of partially treated water through half a mile of groundwater, eventually ending up in the ocean. The facility did so without the permit from the EPA. However, the County of Maui dissented, claiming that the Clean Water Act is too broad, and could force facilities to have a permit for unexpected circumstances, such as waste finding its way to “navigable waters” over the course of a century. The county also argues that because the groundwater, a force beyond the facility’s control, is what conveyed the polluted water to navigable waters, and therefore a permit is unnecessary. The court ruled in a 6 to 3 vote in favor of the Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

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