Thursday, November 16, 2017

US Nitrogen Draws 14.6 Million Nolichucky Gallons

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen, the Greene County chemical firm, pumped 14.6 million gallons of  water from the Nolichucky River in October and on a single day withdrew a little over 1 million.
A report filed this week with the state Department of  Environment and Conservation also shows the company pumped a little over 9 million gallons back into the river. US Nitrogen is required to file the monthly reports under the terms of one its state permits.
According to the report submitted by Plant Manager Andrew Velo the company pumped a little over one million gallons on Oct. 19. The water is pumped through a 12 mile pipeline from the Midway plant to the river.
On three days during the month, Oct. 23, Oct. 26 and Oct. 29 no water was drawn from the river. Likewise no water was pumped back into the river on those same days.
In September the company withdrew nearly the same amount from the Nolichucky and returned seven million gallons to the river.
The use of the river water has been one of the most controversial aspects of US Nitrogen's operation in Eastern Tennessee. Initially the company had indicated it would purchase water from the local utility district.
The permit allowing construction of the pipeline has been challenged in a suit pending in Chancery Court in Nashville. A new judge was assigned to hear that case earlier this week.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Judge Named in US Nitrogen Suit

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A new judge has been assigned to hear the case brought by a group of Eastern Tennessee residents challenging the legality of a permit issued by the state to a major ammonium nitrate manufacturer.
Records in Chancery Court in Nashville show Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle has been assigned to hear the challenge to the permit issued  by the Tennessee Department of Transportation to US Nitrogen and the Industrial Development Board of Greeneville and Greene County.
The case was sent back to the Nashville court after an appeals court overturned a decision by Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman. She had thrown out the suit on the grounds that the landowners lacked standing to challenge the permit.
The permit enabled the construction of a pipeline from US Nitrogen's Midway facility to the Nolichucky River. The company uses the pipeline to draw water from the river for use in its manufacturing processes.
Bonnyman recused herself from the case on Oct. 5 after the Appeals Court overturned virtually all of her findings in an 18-page decision issued in July.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

What's in a Name...Mosheim or Moshiem

US Nitrogen, the company that announced plans to operate in Greene County more than five years ago, has submitted an official notice to state environmental officials stating that it plans to install a 52,000 gallon tank in Moshiem.
The misspelling of Mosheim appears four times in the notice which was submitted to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation on Nov. 1.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

USN Tank to Hold 52,000 Gallons of Toxic Liquid

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen has filed notice with Tennessee officials that it is installing a 52,000 gallon tank which will emit under five tons of ammonia vapors per year to the atmosphere.
The notice was filed Wednesday with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. According to the filing the tank will be used to store aqua ammonia  also known as ammonium hydroxide. According to the notice some two million gallons of ammonium hydroxide will pass through the storage tank in the course of a year.
Ammonium hydroxide is classified as a highly toxic hazardous substance. Environmental officials state that the chemical can "severely irritate and burn the skin and eyes." It can also cause damage if inhaled.
Citing a formula set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Velo said that the annual ammonia emissions from the tank are expected to be 2.4 tons.
"The tank will be at ambient temperature and will be vented to the atmosphere," the letter from Velo to TDEC Director Michelle W. Owenby states
Velo said that by keeping emissions below five tons the agency should treat the tank as as an "insignificant" source thus exempting the company from the requirement to obtain a state permit.
"We believe the tank would qualify as an insignificant emissions unit and ..(it) does not require an air permit," Velo wrote.
The tank will be located near the company's facility in Midway.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

US Nitrogen Clears Key Test

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

With a last minute adjustment suggested by Tennessee officials, US Nitrogen has cleared a critical test on its sometimes troubled nitric acid manufacturing plant in Greene County.
Approval of the performance test and the accompanying data was disclosed in a Sept. 12 letter from Jeryl W. Stewart of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to Andrew Velo, US Nitrogen's plant manager.
The Midway company was required to submit data for 30 days of operation. TDEC said that after reviewing the revised data "the division considers the report to be technically correct and acceptable for compliance demonstration."
TDEC records show the approval came after the company submitted data for an additional day of testing. Velo wrote in an Aug. 24 letter to TDEC that the company had originally omitted the data for the day in question because it was a startup day and included only two hours of operation.
In the letter to Velo, Stewart noted that data was omitted for May 31 "due to the fact that the monitoring system was undergoing preventative maintenance during that time period."
Stewart said TDEC also reviewed acid production data from US Nitrogen and "the division agrees "the emission rate demonstrated compliance" with a rate of emissions of 3.7 pounds per hour.
"The division agrees that US Nitrogen has demonstrated compliance with the nitrogen oxide limits as set above," the letter states.
He added that US Nitrogen has also completed the performance test requirements.
US Nitrogen missed the original deadline for completing the performance test requirements.
The efforts to start up the acid plant have been marked by missteps including the emission of nitric acid vapors into the atmosphere.
The acid plant is but one part of the process of producing ammonium nitrate. US Nitrogen is shipping that chemical to Austin Powder, its corporate parent, for use in the production of explosives.

Monday, October 16, 2017

US Nitrogen Files River Report

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen has reported that it withdrew another 19.475 million gallons of water from the Nolichucky River for use at its Midway chemical manufacturing facility in September.
In a one-page report filed with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the company reported withdrawing over 900,000 gallons from the Nolichucky on two days with less than 900,000 reported on all other days.
On two days, Sept. 25 and Sept. 28 the company drew no water from the river.
Water discharged back into the river in September totaled more than seven million gallons. On nine days during the month no water was discharged back to the river, That includes from Sept. 1 through Sept. 5.
The reports are required under the terms of one of US Nitrogen's state permits.
The company had reported drawing nearly exactly the same amount from the river in August. The report for July showed 14 million gallons were withdrawn.

Monday, October 9, 2017

TDEC Says No Damage from US Nitrogen Incident

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials have concluded that there was no damage from the April 19 release of nitric acid vapor from the US Nitrogen's Midway plant and any harm to residents was unlikely.
In a nine-page report, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation also said that under state and federal regulations US Nitrogen was not even required to report the incident because the amount of nitric acid released was well below the threshold triggering a reporting requirement.
The agency did say that it was referring one complaint from a local resident to the state Health Department.
In a letter to US Nitrogen accompanying the report, TDEC division director Michelle W. Owenby, said the agency was closing its investigation.
According to the report, about 424 pounds of nitric acid was released over a four minute period in the April incident caused by the rupture of a heat exchanger. However, it states the level that triggers a reporting requirement is 15,000 pounds.
"In the case of the April 19, 2017 incident, the amount released is below the reportable thresholds and USN reported the release incident even though it fell below the reporting levels as identified," the report states.
In addition the reporting requirement only applies to releases with a concentration of 80 per cent or more, but the nitric acid in use at US Nitrogen had a concentration of only 59 per cent, TDEC found.
"For reasons noted above, the division concludes that section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act is not applicable to the event on April 19, that involved nitric acid of 59 per cent concentration," the report continues.
Citing the fact that much of the land around the US Nitrogen plant is owned by the company or the Industrial Development Authority, TDEC concluded that "no serious environmental or health impacts likely occurred."
The report states that the closest school, West Greene High School is 1.9 miles away and the Mosheim Elementary School is 2.7 miles east of the plant. The closest business is about a quarter mile away.
The population density is very low in the area and the closest residences are nearly a half mile away, the report states.  In addition the release occurred at 6 p.m. when "local schools would not be in session and most local businesses would have already closed for the day."
TDEC did note that a "vehicle reconnaissance" of the area showed evidence of old homes or residences located on the properties owned by US Nitrogen and the IDB.
As for the weather, TDEC said that the presence of rain showers at the time of the release "likely helped to mitigate the transport of any nitric acid emissions associated with the event."
TDEC did say that it received one complaint of "alleged health-related impacts associated with the event." The agency also received one anonymous call complaining of health related effects, but that caller chose not to file a formal complaint.
The one formal complaint is being referred to the state Health Department.
"Finally, the division does not believe any environmental damage occurred as a result of the April 19 incident," the report concludes.