Apr 24, 2020

U.S. Supreme Court Issues Decision Regarding How the Federal Clean Water Act Applies to Groundwater Discharges

Groundwater Testing

On April 23, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, a closely watched case regarding whether the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) applies to discharges of pollutants to groundwater which reach surface waters. In County of Maui, the plaintiff environmental organizations brought a citizen suit alleging that the defendant-county was in violation of the CWA in regard to the county’s decades-old practice of injecting partially treated wastewater into groundwater wells.  The wells consistently leaked and tracer dye testing confirmed that over 60% percent of the wastewater injected into the wells wound… Read more

Apr 26, 2017

Federal Court Rules that CWA Does Not Apply to Groundwater Discharges

Ground Water

On April 20, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina issued a decision concluding that the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) does not apply to claims involving the discharge of pollutants to groundwater that it is hydrologically connected to surface waters.  In Upstate Forever, et al. v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P., et al., the district court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ citizen suit alleging violations of the CWA as a result of a December 2014 leak of petroleum products from defendants’ pipeline in Anderson County, South Carolina. In addition to concluding that… Read more

Apr 7, 2017

Coal Ash Decision Expands Clean Water Act to Include Groundwater Discharges

groundwater Pipe

On March 23, the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia held that Dominion Power’s discharge of pollutants via a groundwater pathway was in violation of the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA). Sierra Club had filed a citizen suit against Dominion, arguing that discharges from coal ash ponds and related facilities were discharging pollutants including arsenic via groundwater to the Elizabeth River. The decision is notable in that prior to the March 23 decision, very few courts had considered the issue of authority under the CWA to address discharges to groundwater. Generally, EPA and state agencies have not sought… Read more