April 22, 2022

US Supreme Court Decision in Hawaii Has Broad Implications for Injection Well Disposal

US Supreme Court Decision in Hawaii Has Broad Implications for Injection Well Disposal

April 22, 2022

A recent ruling by the US Supreme Court on the breadth of the Clean Water Act (1972) is expected to have significant precedent-setting implications for all wastewater injection wells.  The Clean Water Act prohibits the polluting of water bodies beyond the pre-existing pollution level, and requires getting a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit before disposing of wastewater.  The law specifies that it applies to all direct and indirect water bodies that might be affected, with “indirect” being those that have a “significant nexus” or “navigable waters” from where the wastewater is disposed.  Thus, injection wells, which mainly use underground holes and porous rock, were mostly exempt from this regulation.  However, Justice Stephen Breyer argued that “navigable waters” should include the “indirect” contamination of seepage and flows from underground pathways, as is often the case, and thus that the “discharge of polluted water into the ground, rather than directly into nearby waterways, does not relieve an industry of complying with the Clean Water Act."  Despite this decision being focused on a relatively small (Hawaii’s Maui Island) case, and on sewage (as opposed to many other wastewaters that use injection well disposal), the ruling is expected to have broad implications for all injection disposal including produced water (from oil/gas) and other mining and industrial wastewaters that are targeted by EcoVAP.

Article:


https://www.mauinews.com/news/local-news/2020/04/supreme-court-decides-against-county/

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