Monday, June 20, 2016
Residents Write TDEC Opposing US Nitrogen Permit
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Following a public hearing a dozen local residents have submitted written comments to the state urging an outright rejection or sharp limitations on a permit allowing the discharge of millions of gallons of water into the Nolichucky River.
The written comments to the state Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) follow a June 9 hearing in which nearly all speakers expressed opposition to the five year renewal of a permit to ammonium nitrate manufacturer US Nitrogen.
Attached to many of the letters is a response from TDEC official Vojin Janic in which he states flatly that granting the permit as proposed by his agency, will not pollute the river.
"The discharge will have no impact on the Nolichucky River or the groundwater in the area," Janic wrote in several responses.
Among those disagreeing with that conclusion was Dana Wright of the Tennessee Clean Water Network.
Stating that the permit does not address the effect the discharge will have on nutrients for fish and aquatic life, Wright wrote, "This analysis cannot support a finding of de minimis degradation with respect to fish and aquatic life."
Calling for further analysis by TDEC, Wright added, "The permit must ensure the protection of Tennessee's narrative nutrient criterion."
The letter raises concerns about the so-called mixing zones where the discharged water will meet the river and potentially impact aquatic life.
Wright noted that because of delays in the start of operations by US Nitrogen, sufficient data is not yet available to assess the impact.
Wright, like several others who submitted comments, urged the permit be limited to two years, not the five years recommended by TDEC.
Others submitting written comments include Katrina Brinkley of Midway, Melody Horton and Beth Foster.
"Please deny the permits in all areas for US Nitrogen," wrote Brinkley adding, "It's the right thing to do."
Foster wrote that granting a five year permit was not prudent when the plant hasn't even begun operations.
Barry Bales of Mosheim wrote that the state should not permit the pollution of the river "I was baptized in."
TDEC has extended the time for citizens to submit comments to July 25.