Slack Quoted on Implications of Landmark SCOTUS Ruling

16 July 2021 Law360 News

Partner Sarah Slack was quoted in a Law360 article, “3 Questions Left After Maui Groundwater Case Ruling,” about the first court decision implementing the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that Clean Water Act permits may be required for some facilities that discharge pollution into groundwater.

A federal judge in Hawaii held that Maui County is required to obtain National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits for some wastewater injection wells, which allow pollution to migrate through groundwater to the Pacific Ocean.

Unlike the relatively easy facts in the Hawaii case, there are landfills, power plants, chemical facilities and all kinds of other sites that might not yield such a clear picture, Slack said. Any site is going to have to start off with expensive hydrologic testing, but that isn’t necessarily the end of the story, she added.

“If you’ve got a major water system a mile or two off property, it could be that there are multiple intervening properties, and the challenge of figuring out what discharge is coming from where,” she said. “And the farther we get from the location and the larger the potential industrial area or complex is, it will be harder to gauge whether or not the impacts are from your facility.”

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