On May 30, 2014, a federal court ruling found the County of Maui, which operates the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility, to be in violation of the Clean Water Act. This ruling was in relation to injection wells which the County uses to dispose of treated wastewater effluent. The effluent travels underground through groundwater, and percolates up into coastal coral reefs of West Maui through submarine springs (seeps). This inflow of warm, nutrient rich, and oxygen poor water is negatively impacting these reefs.
Although CORAL was not a party to this particular lawsuit, which was filed by several environmental groups, we are equally concerned about how this acute water pollution issue is harming the reefs. CORAL, along with other conservation organizations, has been working with the County, the accommodations industry, and local community members to address this issue by encouraging the reuse of this treated water as an alternative to injecting it.
Our efforts over the past two years have focused on partnering with the accommodations industry to prepare them for using this recycled water, strategizing with the County on how to speed up availability of this resource for non-potable uses, and reaching out to the broader community to familiarize residents with the issue and how they can help be part of the solution. An example of one of the successful efforts we organized recently was a “floating workshop,” which brought together key stakeholders who are dealing with this topic.
This ruling is significant though, and we see it as an opportunity to work even closer with our partners, including the County, to come to collaborative and creative solutions to this injection well problem. This is also an ideal opportunity for the accommodations industry to lead the way in protecting their most valuable tourism asset—the beaches and reefs their guests come to enjoy.
We hope that now is the time when this issue is able to be resolved. And in order to accomplish that, CORAL recognizes that we all must work together to safeguard Hawai‘i’s coral reefs and communities.