Suit Filed to Force Water Protections in Hawaii

July 14, 2000

The Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund has filed suit in federal district court to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out mandatory duties under the federal Clean Water Act needed to clean up Hawaii's polluted waters.

The suit, filed on behalf of the Hihiwai Stream Restoration Coalition and the Center for Biological Diversity, came the same day that the EPA released a major new rule requiring clean up plans for more than 20,000 polluted waterways nationwide. The suit charged the EPA with "repeatedly approving grossly inadequate efforts by the State of Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) that fail to remedy Hawaii's pollution problems."

"Our streams, rivers and coastal areas are the lifeblood of this Aina [land] and are resources that we must preserve," said Kaipo Faris, project coordinator for the Hihiwai Stream Restoration Coalition. "For many local families, especially Hawaiians, our streams and coastal areas are like an icebox, because they are an important source of food. Yet, the Department of Health and EPA have been neglecting Hawaii's polluted waters. We are suing to make sure that all of the state's waters get the attention that the law requires."

The Clean Water Act requires that each state submit, and EPA approve, a list of all water bodies within the state that fail to meet or are not expected to meet state water quality standards. Once polluted waters are identified, the state must issue Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for each water body on the list. A TMDL is the maximum amount of a given pollutant that may be discharged or loaded into the water body from all sources without violating water quality standards.

Under the Clean Water Act, EPA must step into a state's shoes if that state fails to identify all of its impaired waters or submits faulty TMDLs. These requirements have been in place since the 1970s, yet DOH and EPA have failed to follow through with these mandatory duties, the lawsuit charges.

SOURCE: Environment News Service

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