Monday, August 1, 2016
New US Nitrogen Permit Concerns May Be too Late
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A representative of the Sierra Club has written to state officials warning that the review of the potential impact of the US Nitrogen project on the Nolichucky River and its marine life has been rushed and inadequate.
The objections were contained in a two-page letter from Scott Banbury of the Sierra Club to officials of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), but the letter was filed a day after the deadline for comment on a proposed permit renewal.
Banbury wrote that the project should be subjected to a "full anti-degradation" analysis and questioned the conclusion of state officials that pumping 1.8 million gallons of water per day would have a "de minimis" effect on the waterway.
"We continue to object to the term de minimis," Banbury wrote, adding that ammonia from the discharge "may be lethal to protected species and natural population of mussels and other aquatic species.
He said there was not sufficient data to justify a "de minimis" finding.
TDEC officials did not immediately respond when asked whether Banbury's comments would be considered even though he missed the deadline for commenting on the proposed five year permit renewal.
Banbury said that he missed the deadline because he was on the Appalachian Trail and could not transmit his letter of objections.
The state agency already has given notice that it intends to renew the permit that allows US Nitrogen to pump 1.8 million gallons of water a day into the eastern Tennessee river.
But Banbury said that because of the lack of data and the fact that the ammonium nitrate plant is yet to go into full operation, the application should be considered a new request and not a renewal. A new permit, he added, would require more in depth scrutiny.
In addition the Sierra Club representative said the proposed limits on nutrients that will be discharged into the river were inadequate. Sulfates, for instance, he said would be potentially toxic.
"The draft (permit) does not adequately address the impact of increased nutrient loading on fish and other aquatic life," Banbury stated.
He asked that the permit in its current form be denied.
Dozens of other Greene County and area residents filed their objections to the permit renewal prior to the July 25 deadline.