By Walter F. Roche
Opponents of the US Nitrogen project in Greene County are hoping for a large turnout tomorrow (Thursday) for a public hearing on a key permit for the soon-to-open project, but they are doubtful their testimony will change the expected outcome.
Officials of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation already have given notice that they intend to grant US Nitrogen a five year extension on a permit that allows them to pump wastewater into the Nolichucky River via a 12-mile pipeline.
Ann Calfee, one of the landowners who has filed suit in an attempt to halt the project, said she plans to attend and expects a large turnout at the Friday session.
"I don't think TDEC will change its mind about the permit," Calfee said, adding,"I hope there is a big turnout. The more the better."
US Nitrogen officials did not respond when asked if they intended to attend or make a presentation at the session.
TDEC, in announcing the hearing at the West Greene High School, disclosed that it will begin at 6 p.m. with a one hour question and answer session. The actual hearing with testimony from the public and interested parties is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Interested parties will have 10 days following the hearing to submit written testimony.
Don Bible, another local landowner who joined in the same suit with Calfee, said he does not plan to testify but will distribute a public statement detailing the history of the project and the reasons for his opposition.
Others expected to testify include Park Overall, who has been a vocal opponent of the plant which will produce tons of ammonium nitrate to be used in the production of explosives by US Nitrogen's corporate parent, Austin Powder.
TDEC scheduled the hearing after more than a dozen area residents filed notice that they wanted action delayed so that a public hearing could be held.
Under the permit US Nitrogen will be allowed to discharge millions of gallons of water per day into the Nolichucky.
In a related development TDEC officials are in the process of doing an on-site review at US Nitrogen's Midway facility for another pending permit application regarding stormwater runoff. The ongoing review was disclosed in a recent posting on the TDEC website.
"Inspection begun by BBC and JTBe on 6/2/2016. Not yet completed. Facility still not yet fully operational," the posting states.