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.

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