Thursday, September 14, 2017

Local Group Frustrated Over US Nitrogen Concerns

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

An eastern Tennessee activist group says it didn't attend a hearing on environmental concerns over US Nitrogen LLC's  operations because no one told them it had been scheduled.
In addition Trudy Wallack of Indivisible Greene County said the action being taken as a result of the Sept. 6 meeting of the Health and Safety Committee of the Greene County Commission will just bounce the issue back to officials who weren't doing their jobs in the first place.
"The reason IGC got involved in the first place is because those agencies were no-shows when it comes to regulating industries like US Nitrogen," Wallack said, adding that though there have been two known leaks of noxious fumes from the Midway plant in eight months little has happened.
Wallack said that despite the fact that her organization had asked for action, IGC was not informed that a meeting had been scheduled.
Adding to the confusion, she said, was the fact that the Health and Safety Committee has an alternative name in official county documents.
At the Sept. 6 meeting, the Health and Safety Committee agreed to call upon state legislators and state environmental officials to more closely monitor US Nitrogen and other area businesses.
Wallack said that proposal was akin to having the fox guard the hen house. She said the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation relies on data supplied by US Nitrogen that is not independently gathered.
"When the regulators rely on the regulated to do the regulating, it's the public who pays the price," she said.
She said comments made at the Sept. 6 meeting indicate some members are refusing to acknowledge there have been issues at US Nitrogen, including the release of an orange cloud of nitrogen gas that hung over the Midway facility and was visible miles away.
"We at IGC are skeptical that having state legislators lobby state agencies to do a job they are either reluctant or ill-equipped to do will accomplish anything," she concluded.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com


US Nitrogen Drew 19.5 million Gallons From River


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen withdrew some 19.5 million gallons of water from the Nolichucky River  during the month of August, according to a report filed with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The one-page report states that US Nitrogen pumped water from the river on 29 days. On two days, Aug. 1 and Aug. 4, the Greene County firm drew more than 900,000 gallons from the Nolichucky.
The only day when water wasn't drawn from the river was Aug. 25, according to the report filed by Andrew Velo, US Nitrogen's plant manager.
The report shows that the company discharged a total of  6.26 million gallons back into the river. On eight days during the month, the company discharged more than 400,000 gallons into the waterway.
US Nitrogen is required under one of its TDEC permits to file monthly reports on the volume drawn from or discharged into the river.
The August total of water drawn from the Nolichucky is up substantially from July when the company reported pumping 14 million gallons from the river. In June, however, the total withdrawn was over 19 million.
The amount discharged into the river for both July and August was over 600,000 gallons.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Friday, September 1, 2017

TDEC Dismisses US Nitrogen Complaints



By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials have effectively dismissed two recent complaints about excessive emissions from a chemical manufacturer, concluding that the company did not violate its permits.
In letters to two local residents, Amanda Davis, a manager in the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, wrote that agency officials made an unannounced visit to US Nitrogen's Greene County facility and found no evidence of excess emissions.
The visit was on Aug. 16.
In the letters to area resident Sherry Arnold and Park Overall the TDEC official said "no visible emissions were observed" during the visit to the Midway plant.
"Additionally on site records did not indicate any excess emissions," the letters state.
Both letters from Davis were dated Aug. 31.
The two area residents had complained that orange clouds were emitted from the site where ammonium nitrate is produced for later use in explosives.
The letters also charged that the excess emissions were causing breathing problems.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com





Thursday, August 31, 2017

TDEC Probing US Nitrogen Complaints

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials say they are investigating three recent complaints from local residents about emissions from US Nitrogen's Greene County manufacturing facility.
Eric Ward, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said the agency was investigating reports of orange clouds being emitted from the ammonium nitrate plant.
In one complaint a resident reported that orange smoke was billowing from the plant from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Citing a recent town meeting, the complainant said residents have experienced breathing problems as a result of the emissions.
"These complaints are severe," the resident wrote, adding "We remain extremely concerned by TDEC's  lack of concern for the health and safety of the people of the Midway area."
The name of the complainant was not provided.
A second resident complained of "pink/orange smoke" and reported residents were experiencing breathing problems and sore throats.
The third complaint from a resident living less than a mile from US Nitrogen said the emissions had become routine, especially at night when it is difficult to take photos.
Another resident living a quarter mile from the plant also has experienced a sore throat and difficulty breathing.
In a related action US Nitrogen filed a report with TDEC on data collected during attempted startups of the nitric acid plant, which is part of the operation. TDEC has previously cited US Nitrogen for running the nitric acid operation when anti-pollution equipment was not in full operation.
US Nitrogen did not respond to requests for comment.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

US Nitrogen Says Nolichucky Unimpaired


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A consultant for US Nitrogen has filed a report with Tennessee regulators contending that a key Greene County section of the Nolichucky River is not an impaired stream.
The study conclusion is regarded as crucial because US Nitrogen draws millions of gallons of water per week from the river, discharging some but not all of that volume at a nearby point along the river.
The study was submitted this week by Dinkins Biological of Powell TN in behalf of US Nitrogen's environmental consultant Ensafe.
The report was required under US Nitrogen's permit from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Opponents of the US Nitrogen project have repeatedly argued that the withdrawal and discharge of large volumes of water from the Nolichucky will have an adverse environmental effect on the waterway.
The filing of the report comes as local opposition to US Nitrogen's Midway operations has mounted including an attempt by one county commissioner to reverse the rezoning that enabled the chemical manufacturer to locate at its present site.
However, the motion to reverse the rezoning was dropped Monday and county officials indicated they would push for action by the state to either force US Nitrogen to leave or take steps to limit local impact. Thus far, though two fines were imposed recently, state officials have approved the vast majority of US Nitrogen's requests.
According to the Dinkins report, the data was gathered from two study sites on the Nolichucky, one upstream from the intake and discharge locations, and the other downstream.
Citing TDEC standards for a bio-assessment survey, the 17-page report concludes that the standard method of assessment should not be used because the US Nitrogen discharge "releases into a pool habitat" and "this study was conducted in habitat for which there is no applicable TMI (Tennessee Macroinvertebrate Index) standard.."
"All three reaches examined in this study, even the eco-region reference site, scored less than the TMI," the report states.
Consequently, the report continues, the two Nolichucky sites should only be compared to the Powell River site.
The study states that the two Nolichucky sites were within 92 percent and 71 percent of the Powell River data respectively.
"Based on this criteria, the two reaches in the Nolichucky and the reach in the Powell are not impaired," the study concludes.
Local concern about US Nitrogen has increased in the wake of two accidental releases of toxic fumes, one producing a large orange cloud that hung over the Midway facility. A more recent release triggered concerns about the lack of an emergency warning system in the county or the immediate area of the ammonium nitrate manufacturing company.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

US Nitrogen Draws 14 Million Gallons from River


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen drew a little over 14 million gallons of water from the Nolichucky River in the month of July, according to a report filed with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The monthly report, required under the Greene County chemical company's permits, shows that during the same time period the company discharged 6.1 million to the river.
The report shows that on four days in July no water was pumped from the river to the Midway manufacturing facility. The most drawn, about 900,000 gallons in a day, came on July 16 and July 23.
The company reported it discharged no water to the river on 17 separate days.
In June the company reported drawing nearly 19 million gallons from the river while discharging 8.7 million gallons.
The filing comes just after US Nitrogen, which produces ammonium nitrate for use in explosives, was cited for three permit violations including the failure to submit required testing on its nitric acid facility.
US Nitrogen was also the subject of a two hour public hearing Monday in Greeneville at which local residents expressed concern about safety after an emergency emissions incident at the Midway plant.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Monday, August 14, 2017

US Nitrogen Cited For 3 Permit Violations


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental regulators have charged a Midway chemical manufacturer with three violations of its permit to operate an ammonia plant.
In a two-page order issued Aug. 7, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation ruled that on three dates last year US Nitrogen exceeded a limit on the number of burners it can operate before anti-pollution equipment is fully operational.
According to the citation US Nitrogen's own records show that more than 15 burners were in operation on three times late last year when a Selective Catalytic Reduction unit was not fully operational.
The citation from TDEC Manager Amanda Davis notes that US Nitrogen disclosed the apparent violations in a May 2 letter to the agency.
The citation states that subsequently two TDEC inspectors visited US Nitrogen's Greene County  facility and determined that the violations did occur.
The citation states that the violations occurred on Oct. 21, Oct. 23 and Dec. 2 and the number of burners operating on those dates ranged from 16 to 24.
The notice gives US Nitrogen 20 days to submit any information showing that the violations did not occur.
The notice does not indicate that any financial penalty is being imposed for the violations.
TDEC spokesman Eric Ward said that under agency procedures once the 20 day response period has passed department officials will review the case and determine whether to take enforcement action. That could include a financial penalty but not necessarily, he wrote in an email.
US Nitrogen officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
TDEC previously issued two permit violation notices to US Nitrogen for other permit violations, including failure to meet a testing deadline on its nitric acid plant. It imposed fines totaling $19,000.
A subsidiary of Ohio based Austin Powder, US Nitrogen provides ammonium nitrate for its parent to manufacture explosives.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Nissan Fined For Exceeding Permit Limits


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Nissan North America has been fined $6,000 by Tennessee environmental officials for exceeding the allowable limits for pollutants under permits for its power train manufacturing facility in Franklin County.
Under a notice issued this week the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation cited Nissan for exceeding limits on hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride. The Decherd facility was also cited for failure to maintain required logs showing the dates  oil and filter changes were performed.
Nissan did not respond to requests for comment. The company has 30 days to file an appeal.
According to the notice from TDEC Technical Secretary Michelle Walker Owenby, the firm could be fined up to $25,000 a day for the violations of permits issued Sept. 4, 2015 and Dec. 22. 2016.
The violations were discovered during inspections on April 6 and 12, 2017.
A permit requirement for Nissan to maintain a minimum pressure on its casting operations. The notice states that hydrogen chloride levels were exceeded during 10 12 month periods while hydrogen fluoride limits were exceeded during six 12 month periods.
According to the notice Nissan had no records showing the date of oil and filter changes, a requirement of its permit.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Praxair Also Seeks Major Permit in Memphis


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

One of the companies how building a major facility in Greene County is also seeking state approval to install a 2,100 foot pipeline under a lake in Shelby County to supply a new billion dollar manufacturing venture producing a "very specialized fish food."
Praxair Inc, along with partner Cargill Inc. plans to ship the fish food to customers in Norway.
The application comes as Praxair is constructing a carbon dioxide manufacturing facility in Greene County which includes a controversial 12 mile pipeline from Midway to the Nolichucky River.
The Shelby County joint venture, known as NouriTech Oxygen and Nitrogen Service, needs an aquatic resources alteration permit from TDEC.
TDEC acknowledged receipt of the application for "nitrogen service pipelines' on April 28. According to the application NouriTech had hoped to have the plant in operation by early July, but the state has yet to issue a decision.
The application contends the project "will not cause measurable degradation to water quality."
Under the proposal two pipelines, one 10 inches in diameter, the other 14 inches in diameter, will be used to pipe nitrogen and oxygen from an existing Praxair facility on Riverport Road in Memphis to the new plant on Presidents Island.
In addition to crossing a section of McKellar Lake, the pipelines will pass over an existing Army Corps of Engineers levee.
The project calls for the new pipelines to connect to existing Praxair pipelines.
The application states that the pipeline with be located some 40 feet below the bottom of the lake and extend between 2,050 to 2,100 feet across a section of the lake.
The application states that no wetlands will be involved and the full length of the pipeline will be 5,382 feet, or a little over a mile.
Although another route was considered, the application states that the alternative would involve considerable added expense.
"The proposed path is considered the most economical for all parties involved and with little to no environmental impact," the application states.
The 12 mile pipeline that is an integral part of the Greene County project, has caused considerable controversy with opponents contending it will irreparably harm the Nolichucky River. The Memphis project has apparently attracted little notice.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Monday, August 7, 2017

US Nitrogen Pays $19,000 in Fines


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen has paid $19,000 in fines imposed by Tennessee environmental officials due to the company's failure to submit data and complete testing by required deadlines.
Eric Ward, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, confirmed today that the company paid the fines. The Midway firm could have filed an appeal, but let the filing deadline pass.
The fines were set out in two seven page orders issued in June by Michelle Owenby, a TDEC technical secretary.
One of the TDEC fines was imposed due to US Nitrogen's failure to timely submit required annual certifications on its compliance with the standards set under its permits. The company was required to certify that it was properly following its accidental release plan under each of those permits.
US Nitrogen already had acknowledged that the reports were filed late.
While TDEC could have fined the company some $25,000 a day for the infractions, it set a fine of $9,500. One certification that was due on Jan. 31 was not submitted until April 21. Other certifications of compliance were due on March 31 but were not submitted until May 2.
The reports were required under the permits including one for the anhydrous ammonium nitrate operations and one for the use of open flares.
The second fine was due to US Nitrogen's failure to conduct required emissions tests on its nitric acid plant. The startup of that facility has been marked by problems including the release of toxic gases on at least two occasions.
According to the violation notice, US Nitrogen was supposed to have completed emissions testing for the acid plant by April 29 of this year, one year after the official startup. US Nitrogen has stated that those tests won't be finally completed until this month.
 The TDEC fines are in addition to separate penalties totaling some $18,000 imposed recently on the Greene County chemical firm by the town of Mosheim. Those penalties were issued due to excess levels of pollutants in wastewater discharged by US Nitrogen to the local water treatment facility.




Monday, July 17, 2017

US Nitrogen Drew Some 29 Million Gallons From Nolichucky


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Belatedly posted reports filed with Tennessee environmental officials show US Nitrogen pumped nearly 30 million gallons of water from the Nolichucky River in May and June.
The monthly reports were not posted on the Department of Conservation and Environment until today although they were dated June 15 and July 10. The monthly reports are required under US Nitrogen's state permit.
A TDEC spokesman said the reports were submitted on time but the agency was delayed in posting them on its Data Viewer system.
The water is piped to and from the river through 12 mile pipelines. A group of local residents has filed a legal challenge to the permit for the pipelines which was granted by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Last week a Tennessee appeals court reversed a lower court decision and ruled that the landowners can pursue the legal challenge in Chancery Court in Nashville.
According to the monthly reports US Nitrogen pumped 18.89 million gallons from the river in June and discharged 8.7 million back in to the river. On only two days, June 5 and June 6, no water was pumped from the river.
The largest volume withdrawn in a single day was 1.4 million on June 17.
On seven days during June there was no water discharged in to the river.
In May the company withdrew 10.435 million gallons from the Nolichucky on 22 days. The company discharged 4.8 million back in to the river during the month.The highest amount withdrawn on a single day was 1.175 million gallons on May 19.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Pipeline Opponents Savor Victory

By Walter F. Roche Jr,

Following setback after setback, Eastern Tennessee residents who have been raising the alarm about a major chemical manufacturer locating in Greene County, got some good news this week in a long awaited Tennessee Appeals Court ruling.
The ruling reversed the decision of a Davidson Chancery Court judge who had concluded that a group of six residents could not even raise a series of legal challenges to a state permit allowing a chemical company it to draw some two million gallons of water a day from the Nolichucky River cost free.
Don Bible, who says he could only watch as contractors for US Nitrogen LLC, laid a pipeline across his property, says the appeals court ruling restored his faith, at least for the moment, in Tennessee law.
“Tuesday night after the court of appeals ruling...I went to bed with a lot more respect for Tennessee law than I have had for the last three years.”
The appeals court ruling concluded that Bible, one of the six plaintiffs, did indeed have the legal standing to challenge the permit issued by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
The same was true, the court concluded for the five other plaintiffs who filed suit challenging the TDOT permit that authorized US Nitrogen to install dual 10 mile pipelines from its Midway ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility to the Nolichucky River.
US Nitrogen officials did not respond to requests for comment on the court decision.
Under the ruling the challenge will now go back to Davidson Chancery Court where the judge will hear the case of the six residents, who all live along the Nolichucky.
"From the first everyone knew that stealing land is against the law," said Ann Harris, a longtime opponent, adding that "free water was always the goal."
Park Overall, a vocal opponent, said she was "beside myself with joy" when she learned of the ruling.
The decision comes as one local official has proposed that the county commissioners revoke the rezoning that made it possible for US Nitrogen to locate in Greene County.
County Commissioner Eddie Jennings said his resolution would effectively revoke the 2011 rezoning that enabled the ammonium nitrate manufacturer to locate in the county.
Under his resolution the US Nitrogen site would revert to agricultural zoning and the company would have one year to vacate the premises.
Jennings has acknowledged his effort will face legal challenges, but says that the resolution will at the least provide an opportunity to question US Nitrogen officials about what he says are their broken promises.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bids Sought for Firefighter Training Facility

Greeneville officials are seeking proposals from contractors to build a new firefighter training facility that is being partially financed by US Nitrogen.
A formal request for proposals has been issued calling for responses by an Aug. 2 deadline.
According to the announcement the facility will be located at 795 Baileytown Road.
US Nitrogen donated $50,000 to help finance the project which will be constructed from shipping containers. The company is also donating 15 of the 40 foot containers, which are currently at US Nitrogen's facility on Pottertown Road in Midway.
The contractor will be responsible for moving the containers to the fire training site, which has already been prepared for construction.
Greeneville officials have stated that the training facility will be five stories high.
There will be a pre-bid meeting on July 12 at 10 a.m. at the Central Fire Hall.
Further details are available on the Town of Greeneville website.






Friday, June 30, 2017

Some US Nitrogen Equipment Decades Old


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Major elements of US Nitrogen's manufacturing facility are decades old and two ammonia production plants were shipped from Peru, where they lay dormant for years.
The details on the aging equipment were disclosed in court filings in Georgia where the Greene County chemical company has filed suit against a contractor,Weatherly, Inc. The Atlanta based firm, provided engineering services for the construction of US Nitrogen's  $200 million ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility.
According to a "statement of undisputed facts," filed by lawyers for Weatherly, two skid-mounted ammonia plants were purchased by US Nitrogen's parent, Austin Powder, in 2010 from
 Grupo Gloria. Though they were decades old, the two plants had never been put into operation, the 19-page filing states.
The filing in U.S. District Court in Atlanta also states that the nitric acid plant utilized by US Nitrogen was some 30-years-old when it was purchased  from the Olin Corp. in Lake Charles Louisiana.
The acid plant has been the source of several missteps in the attempts to bring the Midway facility up to full operation.
Attempted startups of the acid plant resulted in two major incidents in which toxic vapors were released into the atmosphere.
US Nitrogen is suing Weatherly for $30 million charging that mistakes by the engineering firm resulted in heavy damage, forcing expensive repairs and causing major startup delays.
Weatherly has denied the charges and has cited a provision in its contract with US Nitrogen limiting any damages to $2.2 million.
The "statement of undisputed facts" filed by Weatherly states that the ammonia plants were manufactured in the 1970s by N-REN, a company that went bankrupt in 1986. The plants were sold to Louisiana Chemical which shipped them to their facility "where the plants sat idle for 20+ years."
They were then sold to Grupo Gloria and shipped to Peru.
According to the suit the two plants "were never previously placed in service" when they were purchased by Austin Powder in 2010.
The filing states that the nitric acid plant was also purchased in 2010 from the Olin Corp. It was 30-years-old at the time of the purchase, according to the filing.
US Nitrogen, in an amended 29-page complaint charged that even more defects were discovered after it filed its original complaint against the engineering firm.
Newly discovered defects included the design of storage tanks that "caused cracks and other defects."
The suit charges Weatherly with breach of contract, professional negligence and negligent or fraudulent misrepresentation.
The suit charges that the foundations for the 35,000 pound compressors were designed to hold only 3,500 pounds and that both foundations failed.
In the most recent development, US Nitrogen was given until July 12 to respond to Weatherly's motion for summary judgement.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Appeals of US Nitrogen Permits Denied


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

An administrative law judge has formally denied a series of appeals filed by Greeneville, Tenn. area residents challenging permit granted by Tennessee environmental officials to US Nitrogen.
In a series of letters issued on May 17 Administrative Law Judge Rob Wilson denied the appeals filed by some 18 residents challenging permits issued to US Nitrogen by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
According to TDEC records, the appeals challenged permits allowing US Nitrogen located in Midway to draw millions of gallons of water per day from the Nolichucky River for use in the production of liquid ammonium nitrate. Another protested permit allows the company to discharge water directly into the river.
The appeals, all filed in 2014, were consolidated into a single case.
In one appeal Stan Olmstead of Jonesborough charged that the permits would result in the degradation of the river.
Others filing appeals included Don Bible and Jack and Margaret Renner. Bible said he did not recall ever being informed of a hearing on the appeals.
Many of those filing the appeals stated that they lived along the Nolichucky.
Wilson stated in a letter denying the appeals that all parties had agreed to the dismissals on May 16. The appeals were dismissed "with prejudice.":
The appeals were one of several efforts by local opponents of the US Nitrogen project to block the construction and use of the $200 million manufacturing facility.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com



Thursday, June 15, 2017

Resolution Would Evict US Nitrogen


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A Greene County Commissioner has introduced a resolution that he says could force US Nitrogen to leave its $220 million chemical manufacturing facility within a year.
Stating that the company has failed to keep any of its promises to local residents, Commissioner Eddie Jennings said his resolution would effectively revoke the 2011 rezoning that enabled the ammonium nitrate manufacturer to locate in the county.
Under his resolution the US Nitrogen site would revert to agricultural zoning and the company would have one year to vacate the premises.
Jennings acknowledged in an interview that county attorneys told him his resolution was not legal, but he has decided to press the issue.
"They (US Nitrogen) need to make good on all the things they lied about," Jennings said, adding that his resolution should come up at the commissioners' July meeting.
He said US Nitrogen promised to buy water from the local utility district and to use the local wastewater treatment facilities. Those promises would have generated considerable income.
Instead, Jennings said, the company is taking water from the Nolichucky River and discharging wastewater back into the river without paying anything.
Jennings said his concerns about the company were heightened by recent events including the discharge of toxic vapors from the Midway facility.
"My grandson goes to a school not far from there," Jennings said, noting the concerns about the lack of a warning system to notify local residents of emergency situations at the plant.
Jennings said he does expect some support from other commissioners but in any case his resolution should force US Nitrogen to answer "a whole lot of questions."
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com


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Monday, June 12, 2017

TDEC Fines US Nitrogen $19,000


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials have imposed fines totaling $19,000 against US Nitrogen for failing to submit required annual certifications and for failure to complete testing required under one of its permits.
The fines, which could have been substantially larger, were set in two seven page orders issued by Michelle Owenby, a technical secretary for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Notices of the fines were sent to US Nitrogen late last week.
The TDEC fines are in addition to separate penalties totaling some $18,000 imposed recently on the Greene County chemical firm by the town of Mosheim. Those penalties were issued due to excess levels of pollutants in wastewater discharged by US Nitrogen to the local water treatment facility.
One of the TDEC fines was imposed due to US Nitrogen's failure to timely submit required annual certifications on its compliance with the standards set under its permits. The company was required to certify that it was properly following its accidental release plan under each of those permits.
US Nitrogen already had acknowledged that the reports were filed late.
The state could have fined the company some $25,000 a day for the infractions. One certification that was due on Jan. 31 was not submitted until April 21. Other certifications of compliance were due on March 31 but were not submitted until May 2.
The reports were required under the permits including one for the anhydrous ammonium nitrate operations and one for the use of open flares.
The second fine was imposed for failure to conduct required emissions tests on the company's nitric acid plant. The startup of that facility has been marked by problems including the release of toxic gases on at least two occasions.
According to the violation notice, US Nitrogen was supposed to have completed emissions testing for the acid plant by April 29 of this year, one year after the official startup. US Nitrogen has stated that those tests won't be finally completed until August.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com



Friday, June 9, 2017

US Nitrogen Files for Operating Permits


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Acting on a deadline US Nitrogen has formally filed for conditional major operating permits with Tennessee environmental officials for seven of its manufacturing functions at its Midway, Tenn. facility.
The operational permits are the next step for the ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility in its protracted startup efforts.. The June 19 deadline for filing the conditional major operating permits was one of the conditions of another series of extensions granted to the company by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation last year.
The operating permit applications include one for US Nitrogen's nitric acid plant, which has been plagued by aborted start up efforts and the release of toxic vapors. The toxic gas releases prompted complaints from some area residents.
In addition to the nitric acid plant, the permit applications were submitted for the ammonia and ammonium nitrate plants, a cooling tower, a steam boiler, open flare operations and a gasoline dispensing facility.
The June 19 deadline was one of the conditions of a series of construction permit extensions granted by TDEC last year.
The new permit applications were submitted by US Nitrogen's plant manager, Andrew Velo.
The Nov. 8, 2016  extensions of the construction permits gave the company until Dec. 31 to complete the construction phase. The extensions included a series of permit amendments sought by US Nitrogen.
Despite a series of permit violations, TDEC has thus far declined to impose any penalties. The town of Mosheim, however, has levied penalties on US Nitrogen for exceeding discharge limits for the town's wastewater treatment facility.
Penalties totaling $14,700 were imposed due to the excess levels of nitrogen and phosphate in wastewater US Nitrogen discharged to the treatment plant.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com


Monday, May 22, 2017

US Nitrogen Draws 6.4 Million River Gallons


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

The volume of water US Nitrogen is drawing from the Nolichucky River topped 6 million gallons for the second month in a row during April.
In a report filed with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Greene County ammonium nitrate producer reported that on 10 days during the month more than 1 million gallons were pumped from the river.
According to the report, 1,018,440 gallons were withdrawn on six consecutive days from April 9 to April 14.
The amount pumped back into the river during the month was 6.4 million gallons with the largest amount, 715,300 gallons, pumped back into the river on April 18.
Last month the company reported drawing 7.6 million gallons from the river while discharging 2.75 million gallons.
The monthly reports are required under one of US Nitrogen's permits from TDEC. The report was signed by Andre W. Velo, US Nitrogen's plant manager.
The increased use of the river is another indication the company is attempting to get into full operation despite a series of delays due to problems starting up a nitric acid plant.
In the most recent incident, in which nitric acid vapors were released, the company told TDEC a ruptured heat exchanger was the cause.
The use of the Nolichucky has proven to be the most controversial aspect of the company's efforts to get the plant in operation. Local advocates have warned that it could have an adverse effect on the afrea's drinking water supply.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pilot Gets 2nd Citation Under Haslam

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials have issued a violation notice for a Pilot Flying J facility for only the second time since Gov. Bill Haslam, whose family owns the truck stop firm, took office in early 2011.The notice along with a $3,200 fine was issued May 10 for a Pilot Flying J. facility in Greeneville.According to the notice issued by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation the violation was discovered during an inspection on Nov. 25, 2016 of the Greene County facility.The inspection showed piping for an underground fuel storage tank failed to include an automatic leak detection device. Also missing from the truck stop at 11190 Baileyton Rd. in Greenevile was a required shear valve anchoring device.The original 10-page complaint against Pilot was issued in the name of TDEC Commissioner and Haslam appointee Robert J. Martineau.According to TDEC records the last time a citation was issued against the Knoxville, Tenn. truck stop firm was on Nov. 25, 2013 for a facility in Pioneer, Tenn. The company was fined $2,000 for failure to have required overfill protection.  The next oldest citation came on Nov. 8, 2010, about two months before Haslam took office. In fact 10 violation notices were issued against Pilot in 2010 alone.TDEC records show Pilot had corrected the recent deficiencies at the Greeneville station by Dec. 7 of last year.
Asked about the citation and whether Pilot might have received favorable treatment the company issued a statement indicating that the long gap in citations was due to the company's diligence. 
"Pilot Flying J fuel tanks are inspected regularly nationwide. The company works hard to ensure that our tanks are always in compliance. When that occurs, we address the issue promptly and thoroughly," the company statement said.
The violation notice issue in November of 2010 was for a Pilot facility in Maryville Blount County. The firm was fined $3,500. 
Pilot is headed by James A. Haslam, the brother of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Bill Haslam, a former Pilot executive, still has an ownership interest in the company. 
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

US Nitrogen Violations Detailed


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Records from the town of Mosheim show US Nitrogen was found in violation of rules for the local water treatment plant on 27 occasions earlier this year and the company was fined $14,700 as a result.
The violations were detailed in a letter from Mosheim Mayor Thomas L. Gregg Jr. to Andrew Velo, US Nitrogen's plant manager.
According to the letter the effluent pumped by US Nitrogen into the local treatment plant exceeded the allowable limits for nitrogen and phosphates.
Disclosure of the violations cited by a local government has prompted questions from long time opponents of the US Nitrogen project including Park Overall.
"Where is the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Where is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?" Overall asked. "Twenty seven violations, big ones, in a year."
US Nitrogen officials have not responded to requests for comment.
"What we have here is a failure to serve the people. The regulators are serving industry." she added.
In imposing the fine, Gregg noted that US Nitrogen also had prior violations.
The prior violations include exceeding the daily limit of 55,000 gallons per day for 10 days in February of 2016.
In citing the Midway Greene County firm for the latest violations, Gregg stated that US Nitrogen must recalibrate its flow meters.
The notice states that US Nitrogen had failed on three occasions to perform required retests and exceeded maximum flow limits on Feb. 13-15 of this year and again on Feb. 22.
As Gregg's letter noted the violations came under pre-treatment requirements for the Lick Creek Valley Wastewater Treatment Facility. Notice of the violations stated that they did not cause "significant damage" to the treatment plant.
US Nitrogen is not the only local company to get violation notices. Also cited was SumiRiko, The comany was fines $300.  SumiRiko Tennessee, previously known as DTR Tennessee, is located in Midway.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Heat Exchanger Rupture Caused USN Acid Release


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Officials of US Nitrogen say that a ruptured heat exchanger caused the accidental release of some 424 pounds of nitric acid, according to a report filed with Tennessee environmental officials.
In a two-page letter filed Friday with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and state and local emergency management, the Midway company also reported that they did not believe the release caused injury to company employees or local residents.
The release of acid vapors occurred April 19 and marked the latest in a series of missteps in the startup of the acid plant, a key element in the production of ammonium nitrate.
According to the letter from US Nitrogen an estimated 59 percent of the nitric acid released was released to the atmosphere.
The incident started at 6 p.m. and lasted four minutes, the letter states, adding that local emergency management officials were notified at 6:10 p.m.
"A shelter-in-place was issued for industry and residents in the footprint of the nitric acid vapor cloud," the letter states.
US Nitrogen said the acid was minimized when the main acid feed to the heat exchanger were isolated within four minutes from when the leak started."
The company also noted that the heat exchanger is located within a containment dike and the dike area is in as asphalt paved, "so the majority of the liquid from the heat exchanger rupture was contained."
"US Nitrogen does not believe personnel at the plant or members of the public were exposed to levels of nitric acid vapor requiring medical attention," the letter states.
US Nitrogen, a subsidiary of Ohio-based Austin Powder, produces ammonium nitrate which is then shipped to other Austin facilities for use in the manufacture of explosives.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

US Nitrogen Fined for Permit Violations


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Citing multiple violations of its wastewater pre-treatment requirements, the town of Mosheim has imposed fines of more than $20,000 on US Nitrogen, based in Midway, Tenn.
The violations, which dated back to 2016, include discharging effluent to the town's wastewater treatment plant with excessive levels of nitrogen and phosphorous.
The largest single fine was for $14,700, according to Mosheim Mayor Thomas L. Gregg Jr.. He said that at this point US Nitrogen has not appealed the fines and violation notices.
In addition to violating the discharge limitations, US Nitrogen was cited for failing to promptly report some of those violations.
In addition to US Nitrogen Mosheim also cited DTR Tennessee for discharging water to the treatment facility with excess levels of nickel. DTR, which produces auto parts, was also cited for failing to report the excess discharge, a requirement of its permit.
According to a legal notice disclosing the town's action, the violations which occurred in 2016, were classified as "significant."
Nonetheless, the notice states that the excessive discharges did not result in significant damage to the Lick Creek Valley Wastewater Treatment Facility.
The discharges, according to the notice, violated the requirements of Mosheim's Industrial Pre-treatment program and state and federal environmental laws and regulations.
According to the notice, the two companies already have implemented corrective actions to ensure against any future violations.



LEGAL NOTICE The Town of Mosheim has established and is currently implementing an Industrial Pretreatment Program regulating industries served by the local wastewater treatment facility. In accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency under 40 CFR 403.8 and the State of Tennessee, Department of Environment and Conservation the following industry was considered to be in significant violation of applicable pretreatment requirements during the year 2016; US Nitrogen LLC, DTR Tennessee, Inc. Incidents of non-compliance were recorded in the period starting in January 2016 and ending in December 2016. None of the above violations created significant damage to the Lick Creek Valley Wastewater Treatment Facility or threat to the environment. The industries listed are making or have made changes in effort to comply with the pretreatment regulations. Mayor Thomas L. Gregg, Jr. 4.27.17


Thursday, May 11, 2017

US Nitrogen Files Late Testing Schedule


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Officials of US Nitrogen, the Greene County chemical company, have informed state regulators that testing on a troublesome nitric acid plant won't be completed until late June, nearly two months after the original April 29 deadline.
In a letter to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Andrew Velo, US Nitrogen plant manager, said a 30 day test of the nitric acid plant's nitrous oxide emissions will begin May 22.
Following the 30 days of operation, Velo wrote that the company will compile the results and submit them to the agency.
The revised testing schedule follows TDEC's notification that US Nitrogen was in violation of its permit because all required testing was not completed despite an extension granted earlier. US Nitrogen had requested a second extension but that was denied.
In notifying US Nitrogen of the violation, state officials said they had not yet determined whether any penalty will be imposed.
"The division is evaluating the appropriate enforcement response for your company's failure to timely test and report," the May 5 letter from TDEC Deputy Director James P. Johnson states.
Velo's letter, dated Wednesday, also disclosed that a series of other tests on the plant have been completed. Some of those test results have already been submitted while others are still being compiled.
According to Velo ammonia emissions testing was completed on April 27. Also completed was a continuous emissions monitoring test on April 28.
Startup of the nitric acid plant has been delayed several times, most recently due to a blown gasket that caused the release of toxic nitrogen gases. That in turn triggered a response from emergency management agencies.
It also triggered concern from some local residents that there is currently no countywide emergency response alarm system.
In another recent development, Mosheim officials issued a notice that US Nitrogen was in violation of rules governing the operation of the Lick Creek Water Treatment facility. According to the notice US Nitrogen was one of two companies that during 2016 discharged effluent to the treatment plant that had not been properly pre-treated.
A subsidiary of Ohio-based Austin Powder, US Nitrogen produces ammonium nitrate which Austin uses in the production of explosives.

US Nitrogen Cited For Untreated Discharge


By Walter F. Roche Jr.




US Nitrogen has been cited by Mosheim officials for being in "significant violation" of pretreatment  requirements for the discharge of water into the local wastewater treatment facility during 2016.
The violation was noted in a legal notice published recently in Greene County newspapers.
Citing federal law and regulations, the notice states that the improper discharges by US Nitrogen and another company, DTR Tennessee, did not cause significant damage to the Lick Creek Valley Wastewater Treatment Facility.
DTR is an automotive parts manufacturer, while US Nitrogen produces ammonium nitrate.
Incidents of non-compliance were recorded in the period starting Jan. 1, 2016 and ending Dec. 31, 2016," the notice states.
"The industries listed are making or have made changes in effort to comply with the pretreatment regulations," the notice states.
The notice was signed by Mosheim Mayor  Thomas L. Gregg.
US Nitrogen did not respond to a request for comment.




Tuesday, May 9, 2017

2nd Violation Notice Issued to US Nitrogen



By Walter F. Roche Jr.


Tennessee environmental officials have issued another violation notice to US Nitrogen, citing the company for failure to submit required test results on its nitric acid plant.
In a two-page letter to Andrew Velo, US Nitrogen's plant manager, James P. Johnson of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, wrote that the required testing data had not been submitted and a formal notice of violation was being issued.
Citing the requirements of US Nitrogen's permits, Johnson wrote, "As of May 4, 2017 the division has not received reports on the RATA or IPTs."
US Nitrogen officials had advised TDEC that it could not meet the deadline and had requested a second extension. TDEC, however, denied the request last week.
"Because the extended deadline to test of April 29 has passed, it will be necessary to put your company on a schedule of compliance to submit the required testing," the letter continues.
The notice, dated May 5, is the second violation notice to the Midway chemical company. In a May 3 notice US Nitrogen was cited for failure to issue annual status reports on time. TDEC said the reports were issued 31 days past the deadline.
In the latest notice TDEC is asking US Nitrogen to propose a schedule under which it will come into compliance by completing the required tests and submitting the results.
"Please propose a schedule for our review outlining when each of the aforementioned  test requirements will be finalized and submitted to the Division of Air Pollution Control," the letter states, adding that the response must be submitted by May 10.
"If you have any information that proves the violation did not occur, or if you have additional information regarding this violation that you would like to submit, submit the information in writing," the notice concludes.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail,com

Thursday, May 4, 2017

US Nitrogen Cited For Tardy Permit Reports


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen has been cited by state environmental officials for late filing on reports required under four of their construction permits.
In a two-page letter dated Wednesday, an official of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said the reports were filed 31 days past the March 31 due date.
The notice marks the second time this week that the Greene County chemical firm has been cited for the late filing of reports required under state issued permits.
In the letter Amanda Davis, a TDEC manager, wrote that US Nitrogen officials could present evidence that no violation had been committed.
TDEC records show the reports covering activities during 2016 under the permits were filed this week.
The reports include details of compliance with the permits for the nitric acid plant and the operation of a steam generating boiler among others.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Residents Riled By TDEC Decision


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

For some residents of northeast Tennessee, action this week by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation was the last straw.
In a decision finalized early this week the state agency concluded that despite multiple violations of its permits over a nine month period no fines will be imposed on US Nitrogen, the Greene County subsidiary of an Ohio based explosives company.
In a three-page letter to US Nitrogen, Michelle W. Owenby, head of TDEC's air pollution control programs, wrote that after reviewing incidents dating back to August of last year, she had
decided to exercise her discretion and waive any fines. She said the fact that US Nitrogen "self reported" the incidents was a factor.
Ann Harris, a local resident calls that "a farce," noting that it was local residents who sounded the alarm in the most recent failed start up effort which triggered a response from emergency management personnel.
Donahue Bible of Mohawk could only watch as a pipeline was installed on the edge of his property two years ago. The pipeline is used to draw millions of gallons of free water from the Nolichucky River for US Nitrogen's use  in the production of ammonium nitrate.
Bible said it was no surprise that the company got what it wanted, noting that Gov. Bill Haslam was on hand when the company announced it was coming to Greene County.
Eddie Overholt, who got hauled off to jail when he complained that no one could hear what was going on at an early public hearing on the US Nitrogen project said he wasn't surprised either.
"Having been involved in this almost from the beginning I am not surprised. We have been thwarted at every turn and my suspicion is pressure from Nashville. I was amazed to learn, on this last gas leak, that there were no alarm systems for the nearby factories and residents."
The charges against Overholt were eventually dropped.
The incidents cited by Owenby in her letter include a failed Aug 23, 2016 attempt to start up a nitric acid plant. Toxic fumes spewed from the plant producing a large orange cloud that hung over the company's 50 acre site in Midway, Tenn. That set off a wave of anxious calls from area residents as  Harris noted.
According to Owenby's letter the permit violations by US Nitrogen included two events in August of last year including the Aug. 23 release.
But citing US Nitrogen's "good faith efforts shown by self disclosure" of an Aug. 3 event, Owenby added, "I have elected to  take no action regarding this violation."
She said modeling of the Aug 23 incident showed that despite the very visible cloud, the emissions did not exceed standards.
Following the Aug. 23 orange cloud incident, according to Owenby's letter, US Nitrogen promised to notify the agency in advance on future startup efforts and state inspectors were on hand to witness the subsequent efforts.
In the same three-page letter Owenby, did cite the Midway firm for being 80 days late in certifying its 2016 plan for dealing with excessive accidental emissions.
Noting that the certification was only submitted on April 2 and after TDEC had notified the company the certification was overdue, Owenby wrote that she has yet to determine whether a penalty will be imposed for the tardy filing.
The TDEC action Monday follows the notification late last week that TDEC denied a US Nitrogen request for an extension of a deadline until the end of this year to complete performance testing on its nitric acid plant, a key element in the production of ammonium nitrate.
In a statement issued today, US Nitrogen said the denial would not deter the company from going forward towards running the plant at full capacity.
"We will continue to work closely with TDEC to complete the last steps in the required testing," the company said in the statement, adding, "US Nitrogen does not believe this will affect the operational status of the nitric acid plant."
US Nitrogen said that it was in compliance "with the majority of the requirements of the existing nitric acid plant air permit...The testing process will not affect our emissions and, therefore, not adversely affect air quality in the vicinity of the plant."
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com








Tennessee environmental officials have notified US Nitrogen that they will not impose fines on the Greene County chemical company despite a series of violations of its permits that occurred since August of last year.
In the same three-page letter Michelle Owenby, chief of the air branch of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation cited the Midway firm for being 80 days late in certifying its 2016 plan for deadling with excessive accidental emissions.
Noting that the certification was only submitted on April 2 and after TDEC had notified the company the certification was overdue, Owenby wrote that she has yet to determine whether a penalty will be imposed for the tardy filing.
The TDEC action today follows the notification late last week that TDEC denied a US Nitrogen request for an extension until the end of this year to complete performance testing on its nitric acid plant, a key element in the production of ammonium nitrate.
According to Owenby's letter the permit violations by US Nitrogen included two events in August of last year including the Aug. 23 release.
Citing US Nitrogen's "good faith efforts shown by self disclosure" of an Aug. 3 event, Owenby added, "I have elected to  take no action regarding this violation."
She said modeling of the Aug 23 incident showed that despite the very visible cloud, the emissions did not exceed standards.
Following the Aug. 23 orange cloud incident, according to Owenby's letter, US Nitrogen promised to notify the agency in advance on future startup efforts.
As a result state officials were on hand for start-up efforts on Sept. 6, Sept. 20, Oct. 11, Jan. 17 and April 4.
"It has been determined that during the start-up events described, you promptly shutdown and/or curtailed production of excessive emissions and determined that they could not be minimized by process adjustment alone," Owenby wrote.
Stating that the public health and welfare were not jeopardized, Owenby said she would not impose any penalties for any of those incidents.
As for the late filing of the accidental emissions certification, Owenby told US Nitrogen to submit evidence that a fine would not be justified.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com


As long as Bill Haslam is Governor of Tennessee, and Herbert Slatery is his “co-signing” State Attorney General...I don’t think US Nitrogen has anything to worry about, concerning the recent unfavorable ruling by TDEC.


In my opinion, this has been clearly demonstrated from day-one when this “bait and switch operation” was unveiled to the Greene County Commission in the governor’s presence, at the meeting at the General Morgan Inn in Greeneville. It was there that US Nitrogen (Austin Powder Company) Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, James Boldt, led the the Greene County Commissioners to believe, that US Nitrogen would be buying large amounts of water from a Greene County local utility district at Mosheim....knowing...I believe...full-well of their future plans to invade the banks of the Nolichucky River for free water, and industrial waste disposal.


The influence of the governor, I believe, once more came into play...several months later when the legal department of TDOT’s First District in Knoxville ruled...against the use of two rights of way along State Routes 348 and 340 in Greene County to run the two US Nitrogen pipelines, 12 miles to the Nolichucky River...deeming the project “not legal.” This too, was “fixed” by the governor in well less than one month...and the pipelines are there today.


There are several other examples I could relate, of what I believe, was direct intervention in behalf of US Nitrogen by our Tennessee governor.


I speak from the experience of a Greene County land-owner who stood by and watched armed Greene County Sheriff’s Department employees stand guard, as the dual pipelines were placed across over 1700 feet of our property frontage, along Tenn. State Route 340 (Fish Hatchery Road).

With this kind of intervention history from the office of Tennessee’s governor...why should US Nitrogen be concerned about refusal of a TDEC permit? Incidentally, I have been a registered Republican voter in Tennessee for well over 50 years. Politics has no bearing, on my opinion or comments here.
Donahue Bible
Mohawk, Greene County, Tennessee





WR

walter roche
Today, 2:27 AM
Hello: I am working on a story about the latest developments with US Nitrogen and TDEC. The Tennessean is finally interested, I think. Could you give me a comment on on the record about TDEC deciding not to impose any fines? Thanks
This kind of cheerleading by TDEC shows just how TDEC has become irrelevant in the US nitrogen plant. An employee was airlifted to Augusta, GA in chemical accident, with severe burns, air accidents sprayed into community, now cannot even meet the basic tests for a start-up and then this most recent accident with the acid spill where members of the community had to self report to local authorities! TDEC's Ms Owenby has the nerve to state that US nitrogen has been self reporting! That is such a farce. And the Greene County Industrial Board(IDB), County Mayor, and chair of the IDB, are standing idly by wringing their hands, while members of the Midway/Mosheim communities are declared to be "collateral damage"! US nitrogen, county officials and TDEC have determined that members of these communities have no value! A plant that clearly TDEC does not have any interest or expertise in the oversight of the permits nor the safety of the plant and or employees. For TDEC to take this position that it is OK for these Austin Powder owners to run at will and with impunity is now bordering on criminal positions, in my opinion. How many people have the information that US nitrogen is operating with a federal permit given by Homeland Security and is an "explosives" plant? Why is TDEC being so cavalier about this plant? For TDEC and the local authorizes to be so absent while US nitrogen puts human lives at risk is truly mean and shameless. No emergency notification in place! Nor any evacuation plan for the three schools that would be affected by such an accident. How cruel can these people get? It is being done with malice and intentional efforts, I feel. What a load of horse hockey being sold as a jobs issue by the guv of TN. Haslam will not go unnoticed in this fiasco.



Posted by Ann Harris to Controversy Surrounds Greene County Project at May 3, 2017 at 9:32 AM

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US Nitrogen Says It Will Forge Ahead


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Officials of the US Nitrogen say they will move ahead with their Greene County operations despite the denial of a permit extension by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
In a statement issued to the media today the ammonium nitrate manufacturing firm said that despite the denial of a request for additional time to conduct tests on a nitric acid operation, they expect to be able to continue the startup of full operations.
"We will continue to work closely with TDEC to complete the last steps in the required testing," the company said in the statement, adding, "US Nitrogen does not believe this will affect the operational status of the nitric acid plant."
The decision to deny the request was made last week in a letter to US Nitrogen's plant manager Andrew Velo.
On Monday the same state official informed Velo that no financial or other penalties would be imposed on US Nitrogen despite multiple permit violations. Those included the emission of toxic nitrous oxide gases, one of which produced a large orange cloud that hung over the company's Midway complex.
In the statement today US Nitrogen said that it was in compliance "with the majority of the requirements of the existing nitric acid plant air permit...The testing process will not affect our emissions and, therefore, not adversely affect air quality in the vicinity of the plant."
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Monday, May 1, 2017

TDEC Won't Fine US Nitrogen for Violations


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials have notified US Nitrogen that they will not impose fines on the Greene County chemical company despite a series of violations of its permits that occurred since August of last year.
In the same three-page letter Michelle Owenby, chief of the air branch of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation cited the Midway firm for being 80 days late in certifying its 2016 plan for deadling with excessive accidental emissions.
Noting that the certification was only submitted on April 2 and after TDEC had notified the company the certification was overdue, Owenby wrote that she has yet to determine whether a penalty will be imposed for the tardy filing.
The TDEC action today follows the notification late last week that TDEC denied a US Nitrogen request for an extension until the end of this year to complete performance testing on its nitric acid plant, a key element in the production of ammonium nitrate.
According to Owenby's letter the permit violations by US Nitrogen included two events in August of last year including the Aug. 23 release of a large orange plume of nitrogen dioxides.
Citing US Nitrogen's "good faith efforts shown by self disclosure" of an Aug. 3 event, Owenby added, "I have elected to  take no action regarding this violation."
She said modeling of the Aug 23 incident showed that despite the very visible cloud, the emissions did not exceed standards.
Following the Aug. 23 orange cloud incident, according to Owenby's letter, US Nitrogen promised to notify the agency in advance on future startup efforts.
As a result state officials were on hand for start-up efforts on Sept. 6, Sept. 20, Oct. 11, Jan. 17 and April 4.
"It has been determined that during the start-up events described, you promptly shutdown and/or curtailed production of excessive emissions and determined that they could not be minimized by process adjustment alone," Owenby wrote.
Stating that the public health and welfare were not jeopardized, Owenby said she would not impose any penalties for any of those incidents.
As for the late filing of the accidental emissions certification, Owenby told US Nitrogen to submit evidence that a fine would not be justified.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Saturday, April 29, 2017

TDEC Denies US Nitrogen Extension Request


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials have denied a request by a Greene County chemical manufacturer  for an eight month extension of the deadline to complete required performance testing on a nitric acid plant that has been plagued with startup problems.
In a three-page letter dated Friday, Michelle W. Owenby, technical secretary to the Tennessee Air Pollution Control Board, wrote that the adverse market conditions and other factors cited by US Nitrogen Plant Manager Andrew Velo did not meet the definition of a "force majeure" needed to justify an extension.
"Based on the information you have submitted the Tennessee Division of Air Pollution Control has concluded that the facts described in your letter do not constitute a force majeure event and an extension cannot be granted," the letter states.
In addition to adverse market conditions, Velo had cited safety, mechanical and storage problems as reasons for the needed extension.
In his March 10 letter to TDEC requesting the extension Velo stated, "There is no physical way the tests can be performed by the existing deadlines."
US Nitrogen was not immediately available for comment on the denial. The company had asked that a current testing deadline which expired today be extended to Dec. 31, 2017.
As Owenby noted the ammonium nitrate manufacturer already had been granted a one year extension last year.
In making the denial the state official cited the legal definition of a force majeure: "an event that will be or has been caused by circumstances beyond the control of the affected facility."
Examples cited include "acts of nature, acts of war or terrorism or equipment failure or safety hazard beyond the control of the affected facility."
She also noted a dictionary definition which describes a force majeure as an "event or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controled."
The state's decision comes as US Nitrogen is recovering from yet another setback in the start up of the nitric acid plant, a key element in the production of ammonium nitrate. On April 19 a blown gasket caused the release of a cloud of toxic nitric acid fumes, triggering a response from state and local emergency management personnel.
An even larger toxic gas release occurred last year and produced a large orange cloud hanging over the Midway manufacturing complex.
In her letter to Velo, Owenby listed the deadlines US Nitrogen must still meet now that an extension has been denied.
Citing the factors US Nitrogen presented in support of an extension, Owenby wrote, "The information shows neither why the operationally  prohibitive nitric acid market demand could not have reasonably been foreseen when scheduling startup nor why providing the necessary amount safe temporary and/or permanent acid storage would lie beyond best efforts when considered prior to startup."
Following the March 19 emission incident, US Nitrogen did succeed earlier this week in restarting the acid plant. State officials were on hand to witness the effort.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com


Thursday, April 27, 2017

US Nitrogen Restarts Nitric Acid Plant



By Walter F. Roche Jr.

The on-again off-again US Nitrogen nitric acid plant is on-again after a blown gasket caused the emission of dangerous toxic gases.
A spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said today that the plant was restarted yesterday and a state inspector was on hand to witness the event.
Kim Schofinski, the spokeswoman, said US Nitrogen officials informed the state that a failed head gasket on an acid heater vent was the cause of last week's emission of nitric acid vapors.
The incident triggered a response from local emergency management officials and an orange haze was visible near the Midway ammonium nitrate facility.
No injuries were reported.
Schofinski said the state investigation of last week's incident is ongoing.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Probe of US Nitrogen Emissions Incident Underway

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials have begun an investigation into the release of toxic nitrogen gases at the US Nitrogen facility in Greene County following a Wednesday evening incident.
Eric Ward, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said today that it was too early to determine whether officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will also be drawn into the inquiry.
Ward said the state agency began its investigation this morning.
"It is too early to speculate at this time on any environmental impacts,  potential fines or enforcement actions as a result of this incident," Ward said in an email response to questions.
The Wednesday night incident occurred around 6:30 p.m. and, like a previous misfire, included an orange cloud of nitrogen vapors.
It prompted a late night press conference at the Midway facility by Greene County Mayor David Crum and Sheriff Pat Hankins. Both said the release had been halted by the time they reached the scene.
US Nitrogen reported that there were no injuries to employees and that company officials promptly notified state and local officials of the incident.
Around 6:30 p.m., US Nitrogen experienced a release of nitric acid vapors. The release is dissipating, and no workers were injured.
"For the safety of our workers and the community, US Nitrogen will cooperate with these agencies and will investigate the cause of the release to ensure that the issues are resolved," company Plant Manager Andrew Velo said in a statement to the media. 
Crum and Hankins said nearby residents were instructed to shelter in place until the vapors had dissipated.
Crum did say that the emissions were toxic and could have harmed anyone who came in contact with them. He also promised a local inquiry into the incident which triggered a response from emergency mangement workers.
The Wednesday incident is the latest in a series of problems the company has experienced in starting up the nitric acid plant, a key component in the production of ammonium nitrate,  the company's primary product.
TDEC is currently considering US Nitrogen's request to extend the deadline for the completion of tests on the operation of the acid plant.
Ward said TDEC's role Wednesday was to be on standby to provide technical assistance for US Nitrogen and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency personnel.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dangerous Nitrogen Vapors Trigger Emergency Response.

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Toxic nitrogen vapors were released into the atmosphere late today at the troubled US Nitrogen facility in Midway, bringing a swift response from local emergency officials.
The vapor release, which was apparently quickly contained came as another effort to start up the key phase of the Greene County manufacturing operation failed yet again.
A previous effort produced an orange cloud which hung over the newly erected plant late last summer. Company officials later acknowledged that highly toxic nitrogen fumes had been released.
The latest startup effort began last week, according officials of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Fire officials were among those to respond today and Greene County Mayor David Crum and Sheriff Pat Hankins held an impromptu press conference declaring that the situation was under control.
"There was a nitric acid vapor release," Crum said, adding that the gas was toxic and could have harmed anyone who came into contact with it.
He and Hankins said there were no reports of injuries although residents in the area were cautioned to stay indoors.
Crum said emergency management responders were at the scene when the problem was first reported around 6:30 p.m.
Crum said that state environmental officials would be investigating and the county would also be seeking answers.
US Nitrogen released a statement acknowledging the vapor release and stating that the company alerted emergency management officials. The company said no employees were injured and they would cooperate with an investigation into the cause.
The emergency comes as TDEC is considering permit extension requests that US Nitrogen says will be needed to complete required continuous monitoring testing of the nitric acid facility. The extension requests come even as the company claimed the plant had reached full capacity.
In one state filing  however, company officials conceded that because of poor marketing conditions they would be unable to sell the ammonium nitrate and byproducts the plant could produce.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

US Nitrogen Use of Nolichucky River Spikes


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen began pumping water from the Nolichucky River at an increased rate in March with a total of 7.6 million gallons drawn, up substantially from recent months, according to a report filed with Tennessee environmental officials.
The report filed last week with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation by US Nitrogen also show over 2.5 million gallons were discharged from the Greene County manufacturing facility during the same period.
The figures in the report come as the Midway ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility continues in its on-again off again efforts to reach full operation. Earlier this month the company, a subsidiary of Ohio based explosives manufacturer Austin Powder, reportedly managed to get a nitric acid plant to start up after several failures dating to last year.
Even as the company continues start-up efforts, it has filed permit extension requests citing poor market conditions as a cause for delays. In that filing the company said that they would be unable to sell as much ammonium nitrate as the $200 million plus plant could produce.
The delay request follows an announcement by the company claiming the plant had reached "full capacity.
The new monthly water discharge report, which is required under US Nitrogen's permit, shows nearly 2 million gallons of water were pumped from the Nolichucky on March 5 and March 16 while nearly 1.3 millions were pumped on March 4.
Smaller amounts were pumped from the river on five other days in March.
The company discharged more than 600,000 gallons into the river on two days, March 20 and 21, according to the report signed by US Nitrogen Plant Manager Andrew Velo.
In its report covering February US Nitrogen reported it pumped 2.4 million gallons back into the Nolichucky but withdrew no river water during that period. In January the company pumped 3.4 million gallons from the river and discharged 3 million gallons.
In December of last year the company discharged 1.95 million gallons into the river, but did not pump any water from the river.
The use of the Nolichucky water has proven to be the most controversial aspect of US Nitrogen's operations, with environmental groups and abutting landowners registering multiple objections.
The company has declined to respond to multiple requests for comment on its start up efforts.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

US Nitrogen Gets Flare Permit Amendment



By Walter F. Roche Jr.


Tennessee environmental regulators have given their approval to an amendment to a US Nitrogen permit that will double the number of flare start up hours allowed for each circuit of two ammonium trains.
The amendment was requested late last month and represents the eighth time that permit has been amended since it was first issued on Jan. 4, 2012.
In seeking the change, US Nitrogen stated that it would not cause any increase in pollutants "but will significantly enhance US Nitrogen's operating flexibility."
Under the amended permit US Nitrogen will be required to maintain detailed records showing total hours during which gases from start-up are vented to the flare.
The permit is just one of several the Midway company has obtained from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Although the company has claimed that the ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility has reached "full capacity" the firm has yet to get its nitric acid plant into full operation. Pending before the state is another permit amendment seeking an extension on deadlines for the acid production.
In one of its filings company officials acknowledged that current market conditions contributed to start up delays.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com







Monday, March 20, 2017

US Nitrogen Seeks Additional Permit Change

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen is asking Tennessee environmental regulators to approve yet another change easing the limits on a permit governing its controversial ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility in Tennessee's Greene County.
In a petition filed Monday with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the company asked the state agency to double the number of flare start up hours allowable for each circuit of ammonium train start up.
The request argues that the change will not result in any increase in emissions "but will significantly enhance US Nitrogen's operating flexibility."
The petition follows another report filed by USN with TDEC showing that while the company discharged more than 2.4 million gallons of water in the Nolichucky River in February, it withdrew no water from the river during that period.
That official report came despite a press notice issued by the company that it attained "full capacity" during that same period.
Company officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment on their start-up efforts.
In another recent filing US Nitrogen officials cited adverse market conditions as a cause for delays in the actual full operation of the Tennessee facility.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com


Monday, March 13, 2017

Market Slump, Equipment Failure Cited in US Nitrogen Delay


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Officials of US Nitrogen are citing an unanticipated  slump in the market for nitric acid and ammonium nitrate along with equipment failure as reasons state environmental officials should grant the company a second extension on completing testing on a new production facility.
In a five-page letter dated March 10, US Nitrogen Plant Manager Andrew Velo said the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation should grant the extension as a "force majeure," an event that was beyond the company's control and could not have been anticipated.
"The entire market for nitric acid is in a slump," the letter states.
Velo said the company considered storing the nitric acid that can't be sold on the site in temporary storage vessels such as rail cars "but we don't have room for the rail cars we need."
In addition Velo wrote that the temporary vessels"would create potential environmental and safety issues due to the additional loading and unloading of the vessels."
Velo's letter cites other cases, including a steel plant and a facility in Indiana, in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allowed an extension based on a force majeure.
Velo said an additional reason an extension is needed is the problems with "equipment failures" in the emissions monitoring equipment for the nitric acid facility.
According to the letter, Velo met with TDEC officials on March 1 to discuss the extension request.
Citing the discussion at that session, Velo wrote "(T)he market for our product has changed such that we are able to produce more nitric acid and more ammonium nitrate than we can sell."
"The market conditions are beyond our control," Velo added.
He said that if TDEC does not grant the extension due to a force majeure, it still could grant an extension through its enforcement powers.
But, Velo added, if TDEC decides to do that "US Nitrogen requests that no fines be imposed."
In any case the letter concludes, "There is no physical way the tests can be performed by the existing deadline."
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Thursday, March 9, 2017

TDEC Delays Posting US Nitrogen Filing


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Nearly a month after it was submitted, Tennessee environmental officials have finally posted on the agency website a monthly Nolichucky River water withdrawal and discharge report from US Nitrogen.
The report, which shows little activity, is dated Feb. 14 but was only posted by TDEC today. The reports are usually posted mid-month.
According to the report US Nitrogen pumped a total of 3.4 million gallons from the river on four consecutive days between Jan. 14 to Jan. 17. The daily amounts ranged from 4,395 gallons to 1.2 million gallons.
Three discharges totaling a little over 3 million  gallons were reported from Jan. 5 to Jan. 8.
In seeking state approval, the company projected that at full operation nearly two million gallons per day would be drawn from the river, with more than half being discharged back into the Nolichucky.
The report indicates there has been little activity at the $200 million Midway facility despite the recent release of a press statement contending the ammonium nitrate facility had reached full capacity.
US Nitrogen has asked TDEC for an extension in meeting reporting requirements for its nitric acid plant, a key component of the operation.
A TDEC spokeswoman said US Nitrogen has agreed to notify the agency when further attempts to start up the acid plant are scheduled. State inspectors were on hand for the last failed attempt in January.
 Kim Schofinski said a startup was initiated on Jan. 17 but then shutdown.
"They are working to service the nitrous oxide continuous emission monitor before scheduling a restart of the plant," she wrote in an email.
She said US Nitrogen's extension request for the acid plant is still under review.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

TDEC Hits Jack Daniels On Air Violations


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials have hit distiller Jack Daniels with a $500 fine for failure to maintain the required power on an air pollution prevention device on 96 occasions.
According to a notice issued earlier this month, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation could have fined the Lynchburg distillery $25,000 for each day the required voltage was not maintained on an electrostatic precipitator serving a boiler.
The notice stated that the violations were noted in a six month report Jack Daniels filed with TDEC on Sept. 2 of last year.
The notice states that 96 of 521 entries during the six month period showed the proper voltage was not maintained at 12 killowatts.
According to the notice Jack Daniels can appeal the fine.

Friday, February 10, 2017

US Nitrogen Seeks Another Extension for Nitric Acid Plant


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen is asking Tennessee environmental officials for an eight month extension in the deadline for reporting data on a nitric acid plant, a key component of its' Midway ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility.
In a letter to Michelle Owenby of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, US Nitrogen Plant Manager Andrew W. Velo asked that the current April 29 deadline for submitting test data be extended to Dec. 31.
The request comes just weeks after the company announced that the production facility was "fully operational."
In his letter Velo acknowledged that TDEC already had extended the deadlines for the plant.
Records and statements from TDEC officials show a recent attempt to start the nitric acid plant was halted after less than a day, apparently due to problems with monitoring equipment.
In his letter, however, Velo indicated that the plant could not meet the current deadline because of a lack of operating time.
"It is not anticipated that market conditions will allow us to operate the nitric acid plant enough days between now and April 29, the current deadline for the test results to accomplish all that needs to be done," Velo wrote.
"t should also be noted that if the nitric acid plant is not operating, there are no emissions," he added.
The deadline, according to the letter, applies to three different monitoring tests.
On Jan 17  TDEC spokeswoman Kim Schofinski stated, ""US Nitrogen's nitric acid plant ran on Jan. 17 but shut down. They are working to service the nitrous oxide continuous monitor before scheduling a restart of the plant."
The statement came on the same day US Nitrogen issued a statement announcing its Midway plant was "fully operational" and was supplying ammonium nitrate to its parent company, Ohio based Austin Powder.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com


Thursday, January 26, 2017

US Nitrogen Startup Aborted, Despite Announcement


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A recent attempt to restart US Nitrogen's nitric acid plant in Midway was quickly halted and the company is working to service a nitrogen gas monitor before a restart will be attempted, according to a statement  from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Kim Schofinski, a spokeswoman for the state agency said the startup on Jan. 17 was halted soon afterward, but she declined to characterize the effort as a success or failure.
"US Nitrogen's nitric acid plant ran on Jan. 17 but shut down. They are working to service the nitrous oxide continuous monitor before scheduling a restart of the plant," she wrote in an email response to questions.
In a subsequent statement Schofinski said, "US Nitrogen's nitric acid plant started up on Jan. 17, but shut down soon thereafter. Our role is to ensure regulatory requirements are met, not to determine what constitutes a 'successful' or 'unsuccessful' start up.
Previously TDEC disclosed the attempted start up on Jan. 17 but did not disclose the subsequent shutdown.
The failed start up marks at least the fourth time the company has tried and failed to get the plant in operation.
Despite the TDEC disclosure US Nitrogen issued a press release today contending that the overall plant had reached full production capacity and was supplying ammonium nitrate to its parent company, Ohio based Austin Powder.
“US Nitrogen began operation of its nitric acid and liquid ammonium nitrate plants in April and May 2016, respectively. Ammonia plant operation began in late June 2016 and fully integrated operation of all operating units began in September 2016," the company stated.
The claim of full capacity also comes after the company reported to TDEC earlier this month that it drew no water from the Nolichucky River in December. At full operation the company has stated it would draw as much as 2 million gallons of water per day from the river.
The first known attempt to start the nitric acid plant in August produced a thick orange cloud of nitrogen gas that hung over the 500 acre site. A second attempt on the same day failed as did one in September.
US Nitrogen officials have not responded to repeated requests for information on the start up efforts. Today's press release was issued to the local newspaper.
 The nitric acid plant is just one of several operations at the facility which will produce ammonium nitrate which will be used in the manufacture of explosives by Austin Powder.
According to Schofinski, TDEC officials were on hand for the Jan. 17 start up effort.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com