Friday, February 16, 2018

US Nitrogen Activity Dived in January

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Use of the Nolichucky River by Greene County's US Nitrogen dropped considerably in January, according to a report filed this week with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The monthly report, which is required under the chemical company's state permit, shows that on 14 days during the month no water was pumped out of the Nolichucky for use in the production of ammonium nitrate.
The report shows no water usage from Jan. 1 to Jan. 7, from Jan 12 to 15 and from Jan. 22 to Jan. 24.
The report shows that the company discharged no water in to the river on 22 days of the month.
Overall US Nitrogen pumped 8.9 million gallons from the river during the month while discharging a total of 4.2 million back in to the Nolichucky.
The January report is in sharp contrast to the December report. During that month the company pumped a record 38.78 million gallons from the Nolichucky while discharging 5.8 million back into the waterway.

Greeneville Water Fined For Violations

By Walter F. Roche Jr

The Greeneville Water Commission has been fined $77,350 for a series of violations at the Denzil Bowman Wastewater Treatment Plant, according to the state Department of Environment and Conservation.
A consent order posted on the DEP web site states that multiple violations occurred between Jan. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2017. The violations involved effluent limits and pretreatment requirements, according to the notice.
Under the consent agreement the water commission must pay an upfront fine of $11,644. The remainder, called a contingent penalty of $65,981, will come due if the commission fails to make a series of improvements by agreed deadlines. They include the installation of an ultraviolet disinfection system and submission of a series of reports on the progress of the other improvements.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

US Nitrogen Disputes State Inspection Report

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Officials of a Greene County chemical company are disputing major elements of a detailed state compliance report that found the firm in violation of its permits and state and federal environmental requirements.
In a 25-page response filed with the state Department of Environment and Conservation, Andrew Velo, a manager for US Nitrogen, said the company does not believe any of the items listed in a recent state review "constitute violations of any statutory regulations or permits."
Though the response does acknowledge a number of changes, including the replacement of some equipment and new preventative maintenance procedures, Velo's letter questions the basis for many of the conclusions in the recent state report.
"The report consistently fails to identify the specific applicable statutory, regulatory or permit requirements that were allegedly violated," Velo wrote.
Velo, who is plant manager of the Midway facility, called on TDEC for a meeting for "a frank and open discussion regarding the division's relationship with US Nitrogen and the report specifically."
In addition to denying he made statements attributed to him in the report, Velo said TDEC even had the wrong date for a so-called "operational incident" that the TDEC report states should have been reported to the state agency.
Stating that the incident occurred in early 2017 and not 2016 as TDEC claimed, Velo said the incident was "a minor operational issue" not requiring state notification. According to the state compliance report, the incident resulted in the contamination of the company's steam system.
Velo also disputed the TDEC claim that the company had made operational changes that required amendments to its permit.
The company "has not made any operational or physical changes" requiring permit modification, Velo wrote. He also said that discharges to the Nolichucky River were well within permit limits.
Other items Velo disputed included the requirement for the annual calibration of equipment measuring temperatures, water use and discharge.
In the letter Velo did state that the company had changed several of its standard operating procedures in response to questions raised by the two state inspectors.
But Velo even questioned how long the two inspectors were at US Nitrogen, stating that they were only there for 10 days not the full month indicated in the state report.
In calling for a meeting with TDEC officials, Velo wrote, "US Nitrogen is now and has been consistently in compliance with our permit requirements, so that our discharges are protective of human health, downstream fish and aquatic life and water quality."
"Protection of human health and the environment is of utmost importance to US Nitrogen and we are proud of our environmental and safety record," he concluded.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Flawed Data Cited in TDEC Letter

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Citing "flawed data" used by state environmental officials, an eastern Tennessee activist is calling on the agency to reopen its investigation of a complaint of odors emanating from industrial sites.
In the letter to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Park Overall of Afton states that the dismissal of the complaint was based on "flawed and inaccurate information."
Overall calls on the agency to reopen its investigation stating that the conclusion that US Nitrogen or Scepter could not have been the source of the odors was based on false assumptions about the force and direction of winds on Dec. 4, the date the odors were recorded by local resident Sherry Arnold.
Overall said it appears that TDEC based its conclusion on the assumption that the wind gusts on that day were the same all day.
She wrote that the TDEC conclusions failed to include actual observed conditions throughout the day in question.
She said that data of actual conditions obtained from another source showed a wide variation from the standard assumed by TDEC and that a 12 hour period of relative calm before the reading TDEC relied on could have caused a build up of emissions.
"The complaint of malodorous emissions during the overnight and morning period of calm winds which immediately preceded the complaint,"the letter states.
Arnold's complaint was one of several submitted to TDEC over the past several weeks. TDEC concluded the reports were unfounded but referred one of them to the state Health Department


Friday, January 12, 2018

US Nitrogen Drew Record 38 Million from River

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen drew a record 38.78 million gallons of water from the Nolichucky River during the month of December, according to a report filed this week with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The report shows that on each of 11 days during that month the company withdrew nearly one million from the river through its 12 mile pipeline.
According to the report the company discharged 5.8 million back into the river.
The water is withdrawn and discharged through 12 mile long pipelines between the 23 mile marker on the river and the Midway manufacturing facility.
The discharge and withdrawal reports are required under the company permits from TDEC.
The December figures and prior reports filed over a 22 month period show the company has pumped nearly 200 million gallons from the river since it began startup activities.
The December figure was by far the highest on record. The previous high, 19.5 million gallons, was pumped from the river in September of this year.
The December and prior US Nitrogen reports show that a total of more than 85 million gallons has been discharged by US Nitrogen back into the river since March 2016, the first month the company filed a report.
Use of water from the river has been one of the most controversial aspects of the US Nitrogen project. Environmentalists have charged the high usage could cause damage to the river.
US Nitrogen, a subsidiary of Ohio explosives manufacturer Austin Powder, uses the Nolichucky water in the production of ammonium nitrate, which is then shipped to Austin in the production of explosives.
Opponents also have challenged the legality of a permit issued by the state authorizing the construction of the dual pipelines. The legal challenge is pending in Davidson Chancery Court.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

US Nitrogen Gets 9 Day Extension

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials have granted US Nitrogen a nine-day extension to respond to a lengthy compliance report that showed the Greene County firm had fallen out of compliance with some of the conditions of its multiple state permits.
In an email dated Wednesday, Chris Rhodes, an official of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation told an attorney for US Nitrogen that this week's deadline for responding to the compliance report was being extended to Jan. 19.
Michael Stagg of Waller and Lansden, which represents US Nitrogen, had written to TDEC seeking the extension citing illnesses and the recent holidays.
TDEC's responded by saying the request was reasonable.
The compliance review found that US Nitrogen had failed to inform the state of changes in production and also failed to inform regulators of a "mishap."
 The details of the nearly month long inspection were detailed in a 16-page letter to US Nitrogen Plant Manager Andrew Velo from Chris Rhodes, TDEC's Water Resources Division Manager.
The mishap, which occurred in early 2016 resulted in the contamination of the steam system. TDEC also cited US Nitrogen for changes in the use of a retention pond,

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

US Nitrogen Complaints Dismissed

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials say they have investigated complaints from two residents about US Nitrogen's operations in Greene County and determined there were no violations.
One resident had complained of burning gases from the US Nitrogen's Midway plant on Dec. 9.
Ron Wilhoit, an inspector from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation wrote that he investigated the complaint on Dec. 11 and found that a US Nitrogen flare was operating for all 24 hours that day "because of a compressor issue."
He said that activated the flare system, which is designed to operate "when excess emissions are generated.
"There were no upsets with the boiler," he added in the letter to the resident.
Wilhoit sent a similar response to another area resident who had complained of caustic odors. He said his investigation concluded that US Nitrogen was not the likely source of odors.
He also stated a review of company records showed no upset conditions.
In a related development, Yara International, which will be operating from the same Greene County site, reported that there were no emissions during the past year from their location because the process emissions had not yet been constructed.
Contact: wfroche