Saturday, March 5, 2016
TDEC Promises Hearing on US Nitrogen Water Permit
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.