City claims victory after partial dismissal of sewage-spill lawsuit
City officials lauded a federal court ruling yesterday that dismissed several claims of a lawsuit against the city for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.
The Sierra Club's Hawaii Chapter, one of the plaintiffs, disagreed with the ruling.
"We feel there have been substantial violations of the federal Clean Water Act," said spokesman Jeff Mikulina. "You read about it every day in the newspaper. A sewage spill here, spills there, 50,000 gallons spilled from the Kaneohe Collection System recently."
"There are serious problems with the city's sewage system," he said. "We sought to resolve it through this lawsuit."
The lawsuit was brought against the city last year by the Sierra Club, Hawaii's Thousand Friends and Our Children's Earth Foundation.
U.S. District Judge David Ezra issued the ruling Sept. 30, dismissing claims that the Sand Island and Honouliuli waste-water treatment plants were operating without valid federal permits.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann said in a news release issued yesterday that he was pleased with the decision.
"Our Environmental Services Department will continue its work to make necessary improvements to our waste-water system," he said.
Ezra said the Environmental Protection Agency should be given a "pre-eminent role" in enforcing the Clean Water Act, and that the plaintiffs' claims regarding the collection system spills were similar to a previous lawsuit filed by the EPA and Department of Health, settled in 1998.
The Sierra Club alleges ongoing violations.
Eric Takamura, director of the city Department of Environmental Services, said, "The public's money can now be more appropriately and wisely used for the purpose of upgrading the city's waste-water collection, treatment and disposal system instead of litigating these claims."
He said the city "remains committed to work toward resolving the remaining issues in the litigation arising from the Sand Island and Honouliuli waste-water treatment plants."
Takamura said much of the maintenance and rehabilitation work was not being done under the previous administration, and now corrective action needs to be taken, which often calls for a bigger project and costs more.