Recent Supreme Court ruling on contaminated groundwater leads to first settlement

May 29, 2020

Bloomberg Law reports environmentalists and a Cape Cod beach club have agreed to settle a water pollution dispute following a recent Supreme Court ruling on the scope of the Clean Water Act.

The Conservation Law Foundation and the Wychmere Beach Club notified the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on May 26 that they resolved their legal fight over the venue’s wastewater management system.

The deal is the first major settlement to follow the Supreme Court’s April decision in County of Maui v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund. The justices ruled that indirect water pollution triggers federal permitting requirements when it’s the “functional equivalent” of direct pollution.

The Supreme Court’s ruling rejected a 2019 Trump administration policy that said pollution that flows through groundwater is beyond the scope of the Clean Water Act.

NGWA and the Water Systems Council filed a joint friends of court brief in that case, maintaining that groundwater regulation should be left to the states and that requiring a permit in these indirect conveyance cases would unduly burden water well contractors.

The two associations released this statement after the ruling: “While today’s ruling came as a disappointment, we respect the Supreme Court’s decision on this matter. We maintain that states should have the right to manage their groundwater and we are interested in exploring legislative avenues to bring clarity to this issue. The SCOTUS decision clearly indicates there is more work to be done.”