By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A representative of an environmental group has recommended that Tennessee regulators limit to six months a renewed permit to discharge millions of gallons of wastewater into the Nolichucky River.
The proposal was offered Thursday in a lengthy public hearing on the five-year permit sought by US Nitrogen from the Department of Environment and Conservation.
One of more than a ten witnesses to testify at the Thursday session,Scott Banbury of the Sierra Club said limiting the permit to six months would give the state time to evaluate US Nitrogen's performance.
Under the permit the ammonium nitrate manufacturer would be allowed to pump several million gallons of water through a 12-mile pipeline to the Nolichucky.
US Nitrogen is in the process of gearing up for production at the $200 million Midway facility and reports filed with TDEC show millions of gallons of water already have been pumped from the river with most, but not all of it later returned.
Some of those who attended the meeting said they hoped TDEC officials would consider the alternative offered by Banbury.
US Nitrogen representatives, including attorney Michael Stagg urged approval of the five year permit.
In announcing the permit application, TDEC officials indicated they already were in favor of granting it. The public hearing was scheduled after some 14 area residents contacted the state agency and requested an opportunity to testify.
Ann Calfee, who attended the session, said Banbury also suggested that a meter be installed to measure the river flow at the point of out-take and intake.
"I don't think TDEC will change their mind," Calfee said, "but I hope they consider a six month extension instead of a five year extension to see how US Nitrogen does."
Among those to testify against the permit was local resident Park Overall, who warned of pollution of the river and said, "We don't have the water to give them."
"Your governor is playing God with your river and no one can tell you there is enough water for this industry."
Attending the session, but not testifying was landowner Don Bible who gave out copies of a statement he composed on the history of the US Nitrogen project and his efforts to have a Greene County grand jury investigate the votes that made it possible.
In the statement Bible said he believed giving testimony would only be an exercise in futility since state officials had already made up their minds to grant the permit.