Clean Water Act Covers Groundwater Discharges, Supreme Court Rules

The New York Times discusses a Supreme Court ruling that affirms that the Clean Water Act covers groundwater discharges. In a 6-to-3 ruling, the court rejected arguments by a county in Hawaii and the Trump administration that only pollution discharged directly into navigable waters requires permits.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Clean Water Act applies to some pollutants that reach the sea and other protected waters indirectly through groundwater.

The case, County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, No. 18-260, concerned a wastewater treatment plant on Maui, Hawaii, that used injection wells to dispose of some four million gallons of treated sewage each day by pumping it into groundwater about a half-mile from the Pacific Ocean. Some of the waste reached the ocean.

Environmental groups sued, calling it “the clean water case of the century.” A ruling in favor of the treatment plant “would open a massive loophole for every polluter in the country to avoid regulation,” David L. Henkin, a lawyer with Earthjustice, said in November.

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