By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Just days before a critical court hearing, the company building a controversial 12 mile pipeline to the Nolichucky River in Greene County is charging that the project has been sabotaged and law enforcement officers are on the case.
The charge was leveled this week by Justin Freeark of U.S. Nitrogen who said an unknown individual breached a barrier protecting a section of the river where pipeline work is ongoing.
Charging that the action amounted to criminal trespass and vandalism, Freeark labeled the incident "an attempt to sabotage our construction site and jeopardize the safety of our workers."
According to Freeark's statement, the breach was discovered by Greene County sheriff deputies hired by US Nitrogen to secure the work area. He said the sheriff's office is now investigating the matter.
The charges come just ahead of a Monday court hearing on a request by opponents of the project to get a court ordered halt to the construction.
Don Bible, the lead plaintiff in the case, questions the charges of vandalism and sabotage noting that blasting was heard in the area of the incident on Wednesday. The work area is along the Nolichucky in Cocke County, just over the Greene County line.
He said he believes the blasting damaged the barrier, known as a cofferdam, and water
started pouring in to the work area. Another possibility, he said, is that the blasting opened a fissure in the limestone rock in the enclosed area letting water build up inside the enclosed area.
Freeark estimated that the damage would take a week to repair.
disturbed that a person would trespass on private property in an attempt
to sabotage our construction site," Freeark said.
The pipeline will pump millions of gallons of water a day to and from the Nolichucky to the new $200 million US Nitrogen facility, which will produce ammonium nitrate.
The Monday hearing will be held at 9 a.m in Greene County Chancery Court.