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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ENR THURSDAY, JULY 23, 1998 (202) 616 2765 TDD (202) 514 1888

Patrick Johnston Hawaii DOH

Dave Schmidt EPA

(808) 586 4442 (415) 744 1578


WASHINGTON, D.C. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Justice and the Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) have filed a complaint against the County of Maui for violations of federal and state pollution laws. Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department, said the complaint was filed today in U.S. District Court in Honolulu to stop repeated spills of sewage from the county's wastewater system into public streets and waterways. "There is no excuse for a county to allow repeated spills of sewage into public streets and waterways," said Schiffer. "The county has broken the law, plain and simple, and they must be held accountable." Alexis Strauss, Director of E.P.A.'s Western Regional Water Division said, "Maui County has a recurring pattern of raw sewage spills. This continuing pattern of sewage spills is a matter of extreme concern to us because these spills pose an unnecessary health risk to Maui's residents and visitors alike." The parties were involved in negotiations until last week to reach an agreement over the terms of a federal court consent decree with appropriate requirements for spill reduction measures. On July 13, the county unilaterally withdrew from the negotiations. To ensure adequate protection of public health, the United States and the State of Hawaii today filed their joint action in federal court to preserve their legal options. The governments have invited the county to return to negotiations.

Since the start of 1992, Maui County has reported to HDOH more than 330 raw sewage and other wastewater spills from its sewers and other parts of its wastewater system. The sewage and wastewater spills have been located throughout the Wailuku/Kahului, Lahaina, and Kihei areas on Maui and on Molokai and Lanai. Some of the sewage and wastewater spills have been very large in volume, reaching up to one million gallons, including sewage and wastewater spills that have reached ocean waters and various inland waterways and prompted the posting of warnings at public beaches. The spills also have run into public streets, agricultural fields, and various other locations open to the public. The county has caused the sewage and wastewater spills, which violate federal and state water pollution laws, through lack of adequate preventive maintenance, such as frequent cleaning of sewer lines to remove grease blockage; equipment malfunctions and operator errors; and sewer line breaks caused by faulty construction practices or failure to replace aging, corroding lines. "Maui County needs to adopt various measures for reducing its sewage spills," said Dr. Bruce Anderson, HDOH Deputy Director. "Our action is designed to ensure that Maui County takes these steps." Starting in 1992, HDOH issued a series of administrative orders to the county designed to reduce the spills. In February 1997, EPA also issued an administrative order to Maui County for its continuing sewage spill problem. While the county has reduced its sewage spills in the past two years from its previous levels, the county continues to have preventable sewage and wastewater spills. To fully address the continuing problem and to advance long term solutions, EPA and DOH had been negotiating with the county on appropriate spill reduction measures at the time of the county's withdrawal. EPA and HDOH continue to believe that both short term as well as long term measures are needed to ensure that the county continues to improve its efforts to comply with federal and state environmental laws. Urging the county to return to the negotiations, Hawaii Attorney General Margery Bronster said, "A negotiated settlement would save the taxpayers of the county, state and the United States from the very large expense of active litigation of this case. However, if no agreement can be reached, litigation is appropriate." #### 98 344