Tuesday, May 3, 2016
TDEC Sets Hearing On Key US Nitrogen Permit
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Responding to a flood of requests from Greene County area residents, state environmental officials have set a June 9 hearing date on the proposed five-year renewal of a key permit for US Nitrogen.
In an announcement Tuesday the state Department of Environment and Conservation stated the June 9 official hearing will be preceded by a one hour open house or public information session.
While citizens will be allowed to ask questions from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. a formal public hearing will begin at 7 during which residents will be allowed to testify only. The hearing will be held in the gymnasium of the West Greene High School.
The notice also indicates a time limit may be set on individual testimony.
At issue is TDEC's proposed renewal for five years of a permit authorizing US Nitrogen to discharge millions of gallons of cooling water into the Nolichucky River at mile marker 20.8.
The cooling water, which will have previously been drawn from the Nolichucky, will be utilized in cooling towers for the production of nitric acid, ammonia and ammonium nitrate, according to the notice.
Notice of the agency's intent to issue the permit already has drawn protests and questions from local residents including Park Overall, one of those to call for a public hearing.
TDEC has stated in response to some of those questions, that the permit does not involve the drawing of water from the Nolichucky, a process apparently covered by another state permit.
Recent reports filed with TDEC show that US Nitrogen already has begun drawing water from the river. According to the report more than 1.2 million gallons were withdrawn during a five day period at the end of March.
Overall also has questioned why TDEC is proposing to issue a permit for five years for a plant that is not yet even in operation.
"There is no basis for this permit action," she wrote in one email to TDEC officials.
The local resident also has questioned action by TDEC on another US Nitrogen notice involving stormwater runoff from a water treatment plant located on the US Nitrogen property.
While the permit mentions the runoff, it provides no details on the water treatment plant.