State briefs for April 26

Council mulls withdrawal of injection well appeal

WAILUKU, Maui (AP) — A county council is considering a resolution to settle a longstanding legal case over wastewater pumped into injection wells.

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Maui County Council chairwoman Kelly King proposed a measure Tuesday to withdraw a legal appeal that is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court regarding county use of injection wells.

The resolution she proposed invokes an ordinance passed in 1999 giving the council authority to settle claims and lawsuits. The resolution was referred to a council committee.

Injection wells are devices used to place liquid into porous geologic formations.

The liquids can include water, wastewater, brine and water mixed with chemicals, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

The county’s Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility processes about 4 million gallons of sewage daily, injecting unused water into four injection wells.

Four environmental groups sued the county in 2012, saying effluent from its treated wastewater was reaching the ocean and impacting coral reefs.

An appeals court ruled the county pumped wastewater into injection wells at the Lahaina treatment plant for more than three decades, thereby violating the Clean Water Act.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case as early as October this year after circuit courts around the country were split over the reach of the Clean Water Act.

County Mayor Michael Victorino has unilateral authority to pull back the case, King said, adding that a high court ruling favoring the county would damage the Clean Water Act.

“Maui County should not be in that position to lead that charge,” she said.

Hawaii state Senate votes to confirm public safety director

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii’s state Senate reconfirmed the director of the state Department of Public Safety, despite concerns by some lawmakers over violent events and issues within the department.

The Senate voted to give Nolan Espinda another four-year term Wednesday.

Espinda watched the vote from the gallery with Democratic Gov. David Ige.

The 17 to 8 confirmation vote was a rejection of a recommendation earlier this month by the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs.

The committee raised several concerns including a recent riot at a Maui jail, the fatal shootings of an Oahu inmate and a homeless man, incarceration of prisoners beyond their release dates and reports of a department culture of retaliation and intimidation.

“This type of environment cannot and should not be allowed to continue,” said Democrat Sen. Clarence Nishihara, announcing his opposition to Espinda’s confirmation. “What I am saying is the current director is not the right person for leading and managing this large and complex organization.”

Several senators said recent events concerned them but they felt Espinda was committed to making reforms.

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The Maui riot was bound to happen whether Espinda was the director or not, said Sen. Kurt Fevella, the lone Republican in the Senate.

Severely overcrowded conditions in the state’s jails have persisted for years and part of the blame rests with the Legislature for not providing enough financial support to the corrections system, Fevella said.

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