Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Excess Magnesium Runoff Reported at US Nitrogen Site
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
An official of US Nitrogen has reported to Tennessee regulators that storm water runoff at its Midway site exceeded by more than 100 times the national cut off on concentration limits for magnesium.
In a Sept. 18 letter to the state Department of Enviroment and Conservation, Justin Freeark, US Nitrogen plant manager reported the high magnesium concentrations were recorded at three separate locations.
The two-page letter did not specify when the high readings were recorded, but the company said in a statement that the readings came in a recent annual test required under its state permit.
"Magnesium concentrations of 6.44 milligrams per liter (mg/L), 8.54 mg/L and 12.3 mg/L were reported, respectively. The cut-off concentration for magnesium is 0.64 mg/L," the letter to TDEC states.
Freeark noted that the plant, which will produce ammonium nitrate, is not yet in operation. Company officials have announced a phased in start-up pegged to begin by year's end.
In the letter, which was sent to TDEC's regional office in Johnson City, Freeark added, "Once operations do begin, industrial activities at the facility will not utilize magnesium or materials containing notable levels of magnesium."
According to the letter, the company suspects the high concentrations comes "from background concentrations, potential fertilizer application, and/or from water flowing through or across rock."
Freeark stated that magnesium levels exceeding the benchmark level "have been detected in water samples collected in the Nolichucky River and other area surface waters."
In a footnote, Freeark reported that magnesium levels of 4.5 mg/L were found in test samples from the Nolichucky and 2.6 mg/L in Greeneville's public water supply. Those samples were tested and collected by a private firm on contract to US Nitrogen.
He also disclosed that magnesium was a component of the fertilizer applied on the site to establish a permanent vegetative cover.
In the statement issued today, US Nitrogen noted that the test result were "self reported." The company stated that the benchmark standard "is not locally adjusted to account for existing levels of magnesium in the Greene County environment."
The company added that since this was the first annual report, it was the first time that magnesium levels have been recorded.
"US Nitrogen would emphasize that the company has not begun operations and therefore, the magnesium levels could not have come from any of its processes.
"Based on an investigation, US Nitrogen has submitted to TDEC that the reasons behind the magnesium levels are primarily from pre-existing background concentrations," the company statement concluded.