Saturday, March 5, 2016
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A nonprofit that already is serving disabled Tennessee residents has applied for a state certificate to serve four of the residents set to depart from the Greene Valley Development Center.
An application for a four-bed facility in Rockwood Roane County has been submitted to the state Health Planning and Development Agency by the Michael Dunn Center. In the application the nonprofit stated that it also intends to seek approval for a second four-bed facility also in Roane County.
Under the current application, an existing 10-bed licensed residential rehabilitation building at 763 Clymersville Road in Rockwood will be converted to a four bed Intermediate Care Facility for four former Greene Valley residents.
The nine current residents of the Clymersville Road home will be transferred to "newly acquired supported living homes," according to the application.
The Clymersville building is owned by Hope Haven Corp., which is listed as "financially related" to the Michael Dunn Center. Dunn will lease the renovated building from Hope Haven, according to the application.
Financial information included in the application states that the new home is expected to have annual revenues of $1.15 million, most of that coming from TennCare and the state.
The Dunn certificate of need application is scheduled to be considered by the board of the health planning agency on April 27.
As with the other applications, the file includes a letter of support from Debra Payne, who heads the state Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Seven other certificate of need applications for 28 beds to serve Greene Valley residents are pending before the same board.
Previously the panel has given its approval to another 28 beds. Only one, for a Greeneville facility, has drawn substantial opposition.
Greene Valley is under a federal court order to shut down by June 30, though an extension beyond that date is likely.
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Responding to multiple requests for a public hearing and an extension of time for public comment, Tennessee environmental officials have informed Greene County area residents there will be a public hearing on a new water discharge permit for US. Nitrogen, but they aren't saying when.
In an email response to local residents, Vojin Janic of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said both requests will be granted.
In doing so, however, Janic asserted that the granting of the permit would not result in pollution of the Nolichucky River, the waterway where the ammonium nitrate manufacturer plans to dump millions of gallons of water.
In a related development, local resident Donahue Bible has submitted a detailed statement opposing the permit which TDEC already has indicated it intends to approve.
Bible said there were multiple reasons the permit should not be renewed and, in fact, it should never have been issued in the first place. He said there was evidence that the permit was unnecessary as US Nitrogen could have purchased water from the local utility district and discharged the effluent for regular sewage processing.
Janic, in his email to local residents, also clarified that the permit up for renewal is for the discharge of water from the US Nitrogen plant to the river. A separate permit allows the company to pump water from the river for use in the manufacturing process, he said.
"The permit we are talking about," Janic wrote, "is the discharge permit, not the withdrawal permit. The draft permit is for the discharge of treated effluent from the US Nitrogen facility."
"Therefore," he concluded, "this discharge will have no impact on the Nolichucky River or the groundwater in the area."
He said that "by law we are not allowed to issue a permit that would cause a condition of pollution in the receiving stream."
In the email to Afton resident Park Overall, Janic said that the date of a public hearing will be announced at least 30 days in advance and residents will have 15 days following the hearing to submit comments.
At a minimum, he wrote, there will be 45 days advance notice.
"You can count on us receiving comments through the end of May 2016," the email states.
Overall, however, said the agency should have provided dates and deadlines already.
"TDEC is openly ignoring rules on public notice and public participation," Overall said. "People have a right to know what they are being poisoned with."
While the state agency is promising a hearing on the water discharge permit, they have announced they will not hold a hearing on an air permit renewal sought by US Nitrogen. Under that renewal the company could triple the amount of nitrous oxides emitted from the yet-to-open facility.
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and subsequent guidance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a state agency has turned down a request for a public hearing on an amended air permit from U.S. Nitrogen.
In a letter to Park Overall, an Afton resident who had requested a hearing, an official of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said the court and EPA actions moved the US Nitrogen request to a lower category. As a result, TDEC official James P. Johnston wrote, a hearing will not be held.
Johnston said the federal action, coupled with subsequent changes at the state level, re-categorized the US Nitrogen request from a major to a minor pollution source category.
He said that under the court ruling, sources could not be categorized as major sources of pollutants solely because of the emission of greenhouse gases.
Overall had requested a hearing citing the US Nitrogen request to triple the amount of nitrous oxides that will be allowed under the permit.
Overall expressed anger and outrage with the decision to deny a public hearing and noted that her request was based on the findings of an expert on air pollution issues.
"It is a desperate day in this state when all the regulatory agencies which we depend upon to protect the public health and safety pass the buck," she said.
"Well the buck stops here," she added, adding that she will continue efforts to challenge the permit and the project.
The US Nitrogen plant in Midway Greene County is set to begin operation later this year. It will produce tons of ammonium nitrate per day which will be shipped to another location for the production of explosives.
Johnston wrote that the court ruling "confirmed that a source cannot become a major source solely because of its emission of greenhouse gases. Because US Nitrogen was only considered a major source due to the greenhouse gases, the courts ruling eliminated US Nitrogen from being considered a major source."
As for the nitrous oxide emissions, Johnson said that modeling indicated the facility would still be in compliance with federal standards even with the threefold increase in emissions.
In a separate permit issue, several local residents have petitioned TDEC to hold a public hearing on the renewal of a permit allowing US Nitrogen to draw and discharge millions of gallons of water per day from the Nolichucky River.
TDEC already has issued notice that it intends to approve that permit.
Area residents Donahue Bible, Deborah Bahr and Ann Calfee have asked TDEC to hold a hearing before final action on that permit.
Calfee, in her letter, said "allowing a corporation to dump straight into 'exceptional waters' is unforgivable."
TDEC has responded acknowledging the letters but has not stated whether a hearing will be held.