The County of Kaua‘i authorized the opening of a drainage system outfall several times in 2020 and 2021. The water, containing pollutants, would flow from a ditch through the outfall and into the Pacific Ocean. The County did not have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit during that time. Plaintiffs brought this lawsuit claiming that the County violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) by discharging a pollutant into navigable waters from a point source without a NPDES permit.

The defendant claimed that the drain was not a point source because there are other nonpoint sources within the plain where the drain is located. However, the CWA defines a point source as “any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including but not limited to any ... ditch....” 33 U.S.C. § 1362. Thus, the district court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.

The case is Na Kia'i Kai v. County of Kaua'i, 2023 WL 3981422 (D. Haw. June 13, 2023)