Monday, July 25, 2016

US Nitrogen Opponents File Comments

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

In a flurry of last minute filings, opponents of a key permit for the $200 million US Nitrogen Greene County project ran up to the 5 p.m. deadline today, even as the facility nears full operation.
The filings, which were posted on  the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation website, show dozens of area residents oppose the granting of a five-year permit allowing US Nitrogen to dump some two million gallons of water per day into the Nolichucky River.
As of the 5 p.m. deadline only one local resident had registered support for the project and the permit. On the last day for comment alone, 10 area residents urged disapproval of the permit renewal.

Meanwhile TDEC records show US Nitrogen has filed a startup notice for its anhydrous ammonia production plant.
In earlier filings the company's top local official Andrew Velo notified TDEC of the startup of other operations including a nitric acid plant, a gasoline distribution facility and a flare system.
In the latest comments opponents of the permit warned that it would have a serious negative impact on the river and endangered species who live within its banks.
"We do not need to pollute our waterways," wrote Terry English.
Ann Harris charged that officials failed to notify residents of neighboring counties who will be impacted. She also questioned why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had not become involved and why an environmental impact study had not been performed.
"Where is the EPA?" she asked repeatedly.
"We don't want our river poisned," wrote Elizabeth Malone, who noted her family relies on well water.
Bonnie Hilliard of Sullivan County also submitted comments opposing the permit.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Deadline Nears For US Nitrogen Permit Comments

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

With the deadline less than 24 hours away, Greene County and other eastern Tennessee residents are continuing to file objections to a proposed five year renewal of a key permit for US Nitrogen.
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials have set 5 p.m. Monday as the final deadline for comments on the proposed renewal of a permit allowing US Nitrogen to pump millions of gallons of water per day to the Nolichucky River.
Three more local residents filed their objections to the permit late last week. Benjamin Frazer wrote that the permit should be denied because environmental impact reports were never performed for neighboring counties. He also charged that area residents had not been given proper notice of the renewal.
Others filing objections included Anne Smith and Veronica Cox.
TDEC has already served notice that it intends to grant US Nitrogen a five year renewal.
The action comes as the company, a subsidiary of Ohio-based Austin Powder, is gearing up for full operations.
A recent TDEC inspection showed some limited production has taken place with some needed chemicals brought in from offsite. The company has also filed monthly reports on the water taken from and discharged to the Nolichucky through a 12-mile pipeline going from the $200 million Midway plant to the river.
The company will produce ammonium nitrate which will be used by Austin Powder to manufacture explosives.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

US Nitrogen Reports Monthly River Discharge

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen has reported to Tennessee environmental officials that it has dumped an additional 477,433 gallons of water into the Nolichucky River.
The report comes as Greene County and area residents are continuing to file objections with the state Department of Environment and Conservation to the five year renewal of a key permit for the ammonium nitrate manufacturer.
In the report to TDEC signed by Andrew W. Velo, the company said it discharged the nearly 500,000 gallons on June 23. No water was pumped from the river during June, the company stated.
In prior months beginning earlier this year the company has reported pumping millions of gallons of water from the river and discharging a nearly equal amount.
The company is still in a startup stage, according to a recent evaluation report from TDEC.
TDEC files show local residents have continued to file statements in opposition to the renewal of US Nitrogen's permit allowing then to dump millions of gallons of water per day into the river. The deadline for filing statements of support or objection is July 25.
Among those filing objections were Jeff Luster, Jane Maxson, Dave Mundt and Terry Massey.
Massey charged that "What US Nitrogen is doing is illegal"
Maxson wrote that she objected to the permit renewal "in the strongest possible terms."

Sunday, July 10, 2016

State Completes On-Site US Nitrogen Inspection

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

State environmental inspectors have completed a 19-day on-site inspection of the US Nitrogen's Greene County facility and while concluding that it generally appears to be operating within its permits, dozens of deficiencies were recorded.
The deficiencies including missing data, conflicting data and simply incorrect data, were included in a 15-page report from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation dated July 8. Still other deficiencies were detailed in eight pages of appendices.
The report concludes with the statement that US Nitrogen must submit an action plan by Aug. 3 that will ensure "discharges (to the Nolichucky River) that are protective of downstream fish and aquatic life and water quality."
The inspection, which ran from June 2 to June 21, included a review of thousands of pages of records and the actual physical inspection of the $200 million ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility.
As the report notes, full production has yet to begin and, as a result, some of the desired data does not yet exist.
"At the time of the inspection, the US Nitrogen and Industrial Development Board Water Treatment facilities were still undergoing startup and prove-out testing," the letter to US Nitrogen's Andrew
Velo states.
"Based on the information discussed and site observations, the facilities generally appear to be consistent with the provisions of the permits referenced above," the letter continues, adding that US Nitrogen officials were "encouraged to maintain open communications."
The letter noted that one of the permits under review, allowing millions of gallons of water to be regularly discharged to the Nolichucky River, was the subject of a recent public hearing and the public comment period has been extended to July 25.
 According to the report, US Nitrogen began pumping limited amounts of water to the Nolichucky River in February, but the company outfall logbook did not indicate the analytic methods used to analyze the outfall.
Inspectors found "conflicting information regarding the methods and versions used for equipment calibration and field analysis," according to the report.
"Numerous discrepancies in inflow reporting" were noted for February apparently due to confusion by US Nitrogen personnel over which day to report results of the outfall.
"Consistent accurate reporting is essential for NPDES permit compliance," the letter states.
In several categories, the report states that US Nitrogen must submit corrected or more complete data to maintain compliance with existing permits.
Incorrect data was noted in records reported in March, April and May.
The report states that there is a two million gallon water holding tank on the site for fire water and other uses. The tank is currently filled with water purchased from the Old Knox Utility District.
"Plans still call for the intake structures, pipeline and primary water treatment facilities to be turned over to the Industrial Development Board (of Greeneville and Greene County) once commissioned," the letter states.
"Cooling tower and ammonia, nitric acid and ammonium nitrate solution production areas appeared to be largely complete, but the two ammonia plants were not yet operational," the letter states, adding that efforts were underway during the inspection to start ammonia production.
It states that limited production of nitric acid had occurred and some ammonium nitrate had been produced using purchased ammonia.
Also operational was a secondary water treatment plant, but testing of water being pumped to the Nolichucky was not yet being performed.
Deficiencies cited include leaking steam condensate valves and a leaking steam condenser. Inspectors also noted areas where soil erosion had taken place.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

US Nitrogen Exec Named in Texas Environmental Records

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

The top manager at US Nitrogen's $200 million Tennessee facility was named twice in notices of violation issued to his former employer, Rentech Nitrogen Pasadena LLC by the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality.
 Two citations for exceeding pollution limits were issued by the Texas environmental agency, one each in 2014 and 2015. The company paid fines totaling $82,500, according to agency records. The citations list Andrew Velo as the "respondent" and "general site manager" for Rentech's Pasadena, Tex. manufacturing facility.
Velo was promoted to US Nitrogen's top Tennessee job of plant manager late last year. He replaced Justin Freeark, the first appointee to the post.
Velo joined US Nitrogen in March of last year and originally held the title of construction and maintenance manager, according to a company announcement of his promotion. The press release also noted Velo's prior employment with Rentech, including his service in Pasadena, Tex.
TCEQ officials cited Rentech at least two times during Velo's tenure, the records show.
In a notice issued early in 2015 Rentech was cited for "failure to comply with maximum hourly emission rates" for sulfuric acid. The limit under Rentech's permit limit was 4.4 pounds per hour, according to the citation.
 Rentech was fined $52,500 and ordered to submit plans to ensure compliance in the future. The fine was originally set at $65,250 but was reduced by $13,050 because the company agreed to an expedited settlement.
In 2014 Rentech was cited also at its Pasadena facility for failure to comply with permitted water quality limits for "Enterocci (a bacteria), total nickel and ammonia nitrogen." A formal notice of the violation was issued on June 2, 2014.
Rentech was fined $37,500, but it was reduced by $7,500 when Rentech agreed not to contest the matter.
Texas records show the company also was fined in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Velo and US Nitrogen spokeswoman Amanda Jennings did not respond to multiple emails seeking comment on the Texas citations.
Rentech, according to public records, sold its facility in Pasadena, Tex. earlier this year to an unrelated firm. The plant produces fertilizer.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmailcom

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Nashville Hearing Rescheduled to August

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A hearing on the appeal in a suit filed by opponents of the US Nitrogen project has been rescheduled for Aug. 5 in Nashville.
Papers filed in Davidson Chancery Court show the hearing, originally scheduled for July 1, will be held before Chancery Judge Claudia Bonnyman.
Ann Calfee and other opponents of the US Nitrogen project are appealing Bonnyman's decision to dismiss the suit they filed challenging the legality of a permit issued by the Tennessee Department of Transportation allowing a pipeline to be built from the US Nitrogen plant to the Nolichucky River.
Bonnyman ruled that Calfee and the other plaintiffs did not have legal standing to challenge the permit.
Records at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation show that the 12 mile pipeline has been utilized over the past several months to draw millions of gallons of water although the US Nitrogen plant has not yet begun full operation.
The suit charges that TDOT exceeded its authority when it issued the permit because US Nitrogen is not a public utility, a requirement of the statute.
In addition to Calfee other plaintiffs in the suit are Don Bible, Jack Renner, Jeremiah Cluesman, Ruth Dolin and Reuben Stone. All live along the Nolichucky and contend the pipeline will cause them actual injury.
Bonnyman ruled that none of the plaintiffs met any of the three requirements to challenge the permit.