Monday, February 22, 2016

Draft US Nitrogen Permit Cites Possible Toxicity

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

The draft permit for US Nitrogen to draw and return millions of gallons of river water cites a concern for toxicity in the water being returned to the Nolichucky River.
The toxicity concerns are mentioned briefly in an 83-page draft permit posted on the website of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The agency has served notice that it intends to approve the permit.
"Since the permittee discharges to a stream with low critical flow conditions, there is a concern for toxicity effects of the discharge on the receiving stream, which is relatively unknown," the draft states.
"Biomonitoring will provide information relative to the toxicity of the discharge," the draft continues.
Despite those concerns, the state Department of Environment and Conservation states in a cover letter that it intends to approve the permit.
"The proposed activity will have a de minimis on the waters of the state," TDEC concluded. "This permitted activity will not result in pollution.
The announcement already has brought a call for a public hearing from Donahue Bible, whose property abuts the river. Bible formally filed the hearing request last week.
The permit, which is actually a renewal of an existing permit, will authorize US Nitrogen to draw millions of gallons of water per day from the Nolichucky and to return some, but not all of that water untreated back to the river.
According to the draft, because of the toxicity concerns US Nitrogen will be required to conduct quarterly toxicity tests.
"If toxicity is demonstrated in any of the effluent samples specified above, this will constitute a violation of the permit," the draft states.
Included in the public filing are a series of questions and concerns registered during a comment period along with the agency responses.
Responding to another question, the draft states that even if US Nitrogen were to buy water from the Old Knox Utility District, the water would  also have come from the Nolichucky.
"The water would still come from the same source but would carry the environmental and financial costs of treatment and distribution, along with making that volume of water used in a non-consumptive way, unavailable for domestic use."
"Furthermore," the draft continues," Old Knox and US Nitrogen have not been able to reach an agreement for the required quantities of  guaranteed uninterrupted water supply."
 The draft concludes that the proposed permit sets limits "to protect all aquatic species" and will not cause pollution.
The water from the Nolichucky will be pumped through a 12-mile pipeline to the US Nitrogen manufacturing facility which will be manufacturing ammonium nitrate, which will ultimately be shipped to another location for use in the production of explosives.
The $200 million  facility is slated to open later this year.

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