Friday, December 29, 2017

Faulty Data Submitted by US Nitrogen


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Prompted by concerns from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Tennessee regulators have determined that US Nitrogen under reported the amount of nitric acid produced at its Midway plant in reports filed with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
According to a letter issued today by a TDEC official from the Division of Air Pollution Control, the ammonium nitrate manufacturer submitted reports showing an unexplained dip in acid production on April 27.
After learning that a measuring device had been "inadvertently reset" and the totals listed for the day covered only a 12 hour period and not the full day of production, the state requested revised data..
"The original data on nitric acid production represented only the production for the 12 hour period after the acid production totalizer was reset," Jeryl Stewart wrote in the letter to US Nitrogen.
According to the letter US Nitrogen when first asked about the apparent discrepancy, they revised the estimate to 298 tons for that day.
In his letter Stewart said the revised estimate had a "low bias" and the actual production was 376 tons.
Stewart said the data was originally accepted by the state on June 15 based on assurances from US Nitrogen.
Subsequently, however, EPA officials expressed concern about the low reported acid production rate for that date of only 187 tons.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

US Nitrogen Drew 159.9 Million Gallons From River


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen has drawn just shy of 160 million gallons from the Nolichucky River, according to reports the Tennessee chemical manufacturer has filed with state officials.
The monthly reports show 159.9 million gallons from March 2016 through November of this year, according to the reports. That figure is nearly equivalent to all the water consumed in 2015 by the 5,300 residents of Rhinebeck, N.Y.
The monthly reports show March of 2016 was the first month that the company filed a detailed report on water drawn from the river.  The reports also include the amount of water the Midway, Tenn. company has discharged to the river.
The total discharged to the river over the same 22 month period was 79.9 million gallons.
The reports show the amount being drawn from the river for use in the production of ammonium nitrate has peaked in recent months with totals running from a low of 10.4 million gallons in May of 2017 to 19.5 million gallons in September of this year.
The discharges to the river during the same period ranged from 6.1 million gallons in July of this year to 9.1 million gallons discharged in October.
According to the reports there were four months in which US Nitrogen drew no water from the river, May, June and December of 2016 and February of 2017.
The reports show some water was discharged into the river every month since March of 2016. The largest discharge, 19.5 million gallons, came in October of this year. The lowest discharge to the river was in June of 2016 when .477 million gallons were piped from the Midway plant to the river.
Use of the river and the installation and use of the pipeline to make it possible have been two of the most controversial aspects of the multi-million dollar US Nitrogen project. The permit allowing installation of the pipeline is the subject of an ongoing court challenge.
The initial challenge to the permit's legality was dismissed by a Davidson chancery court judge, but the dismissal was overturned on appeal and a second trial will be held before another chancery court judge.
The ammonium nitrate produced by US Nitrogen is utilized by its corporate parent, Austin Powder of Ohio, in the production of explosives.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Friday, December 22, 2017

US Nitrogen Draws Nearly 15 Million Gallons


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen drew just shy of 15 million gallons of water from the Nolichucky River in November, according to a monthly report filed with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The report shows a total of 14.9 million gallons were withdrawn from the river while 8.2 million were discharged into the Nolichucky in Greene County.
That compares with 14.6 million gallons withdrawn by the Midway chemical firm from the river in October. The company discharged .9 million gallons to the river during the same month.
The report from Kimberly Ryans, a US Nitrogen environmental official, shows just under 1 million gallons were withdrawn from the river on Nov. 18, Nov. 19 and Nov. 2.
There were no discharges to the river on Nov. 1-3, the report states.
The company uses the river water in the production of ammonium nitrate which is then shipped to US Nitrogen's parent, Austin Powder, an Ohio explosives manufacturer.
The use of the river water has drawn opposition from some local citizens who contend the withdrawals threaten the river's existence. The water is withdrawn and discharged to the river through 12 miles of pipeline under a permit from the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The permit is under a legal challenge in a suit pending in Davidson Chancery Court.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Overall Calls for US Nitrogen Hearing


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A local activist and opponent of the US Nitrogen's Greene County operations is calling on Tennessee officials to combine a series of recent requests from the chemical company and hold a public hearing so local citizens can voice their concerns.
In a letter sent last week to an official of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Park Overall of Afton said US Nitrogen's history has shown that the company is not capable of running the ammonium nitrate plant safely.
Noting a flurry of recent requests for amendments to its permits or exemption from existing regulations, Overall wrote that the agency needs to consider the combined impact of all those proposed changes.
The most recent request submitted to TDEC asks that the company be exempted from limits on visible emissions during start-up and shut-down operations. Other pending requests include an extension of a permit for a carbon dioxide liquefaction operation and an amendment to a flare permit.
One US Nitrogen request regarding a 52,000 gallon storage tank was approved just as Overall submitted her letter.
"Excess emissions that are caused by poor maintenance, careless operations or other preventable conditions do not qualify for any exemptions," Overall wrote in the letter to Michelle Owenby, a TDEC director.
Citing concerns of local residents over the health impact of US Nitrogen's operations, Overall asked that all the pending requests be combined and considered looking at their cumulative impact.
"To those living near the plant site, US Nitrogen's flurry of recent requests only reinforces the notion that serious problems exist with the construction and operation of the facility," the letter continues.
Stating that "history is also littered with uncontrolled accidental releases that show an inability to  safely operate this facility," Overall asked the agency to hold a public hearing in Midway, where US Nitrogen is located, before acting on any of the pending requests.
Overall also requested a series of TDEC records regarding US Nitrogen's existing and requested permits. She also questioned why the company did not previously report the excess emissions during start-up or shut-down procedures.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Saturday, December 16, 2017

TDEC Okays US Nitrogen Storage Tank


by Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee  officials have okayed US Nitrogen's use of a 52,000 gallon storage tank without the need for any extensive environmental reviews.
In a letter sent Friday  to US Nitrogen Plant Manager Andrew Velo, a deputy director at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation concluded that use of the tank "would constitute an insignificant activity," eliminating the need for extensive review.
James P. Johnson, the TDEC deputy director, said in the brief letter that the tank, which will hold aqua ammonia also known as ammonium hydroxide, "would result in potential emissions from this source of less than five tons per year of each air contaminant that is not a hazardous and less than 1,000 pounds per year of each hazardous air pollutant.
Velo submitted a notice of the planned use of the tank in November. He told TDEC that it would be used to store liquid with a 20 percent ammonia content.
It is one in a series of submissions by the Greene County chemical company to Tennessee officials in recent months. Another pending request seeks a waiver from visible emission limits.
Johnson said Velo's letter would meet the notification requirements under state law, which mandates official notification at least 30 days before actual startup.
Johnson noted that the ammonium nitrate manufacturing firm must still meet all applicable state air pollution regulations.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

US Nitrogen Seeks Emissions Easement


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

For the second time in less than a week, US Nitrogen, a Midway, Tenn. chemical company, is asking Tennessee environmental for an easement, this time in the allowable level of visible emissions from its nitric acid plant.
In a two-page letter to Michelle Owenby, a director at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, US Nitrogen's plant manager Andrew Velo said the excess emission "are necessary or unavoidable due to routine startup and shutdown conditions at our nitric acid plant."
The request comes just five days after the company asked for an extension on yet another state permit related to a carbon dioxide liquefaction operation on the site.
In his letter dated Dec. 11, Velo cited more than a year's worth of observations of startups and shutdowns conducted in conjunction with TDEC officials.
"In addition we have made numerous process and equipment changes during that time to reduce the opacity of emissions during startups and there has been considerable improvement," Velo wrote, adding that the company has succeeded in reducing by 20 percent the length of time that emissions are exceeded during startups.
Velo cited similar easements granted previously by the state to Eastman Chemical and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
He also cited a provision in state regulations allowing for limits to be exceeded during periods of startup, shutdown or malfunction.
"Therefore it seems the intent of the above referenced sub-part should be applicable and allow for opacity during startups, shutdowns and malfunctions," Velo concluded.
Are residents have registered frequent complaints about emissions from the ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility, but TDEC officials have thus far labeled the complaints unfounded
US Nitrogen officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

US Nitrogen Seeks Permit Extension


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen is asking Tennessee officials for a six month extension on a construction permit for a new carbon dioxide liquefaction facility that is slated for use by a separate company.
In a letter sent this week to an official of the state Department of Environment and Conservation, US Nitrogen Plant Manager Andrew Velo said that while the facility is "almost complete," additional time may be necessary. The current permit expires at the end of the calendar year.
Velo said that a startup is expected before Dec. 31 but additional time could be needed for start-up and to confirm operations are going as expected following start-up."
The liquefaction facility will be used by Praxair, a company that sells carbon dioxide to beverage and other users. The extension, if approved, would run till June 30 of next year.
The request is the second sought by US Nitrogen following a critical inspection report issued by TDEC officials. Earlier this week the company also sought a ninth amendment to a permit for a flare system used in the production of ammonium nitrate, the Greene County company's primary product.
The inspection report was the result of a nearly month-long on-site inspection of the Midway manufacturing operation.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

US Nitrogen Seeks Flare Permit Change


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

On the heels of a violation notice from Tennessee environmental officials, US Nitrogen is seeking  approval for yet another change in one of its permits for the Greene County ammonium nitrate manufacturing facility.
In a three-page letter to the Department of Environment and Conservation US Nitrogen is asking for a change in the permit issued for three flares used to vent gas emissions. In the letter, US Nitrogen Plant Manager Andrew Velo states that the changes would actually result in a decrease in emissions.
'This amendment affects all three flares covered by the open flares permit," Velo wrote in the Dec. 4 letter.
The amendment request was filed just days after TDEC issued a notice of violation to the company following a nearly one month inspection of the Midway operation.
Velo states that two of the flares are located at the two existing ammonia plants, while a third is "outside the battery limits."
The amendments would change the maximum heat capacities and result in an "overall reduction of emissions," according to the letter.
The amendment would also change the gas streams vented to each flare.
The request, the letter continues, is based on the assumption that 98 percent of the ammonia will be converted to elemental nitrogen and water. One percent will remain unconverted and one percent will convert to NO/NO2, according to the Velo letter.
The 16-page notice of violation was issued late last week and it requires the company to file a schedule for completion of needed changes by Jan. 10. The letter faults the company for not informing the state of a change in production and for not reporting "an operational mishap" that caused contamination of the steam system.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Monday, December 4, 2017

State Inspection Cites Multiple USN Deficiencies



By Walter F. Roche Jr.


A nearly month long inspection of US Nitrogen's sprawling Greene County facilities has turned up numerous deficiencies in meeting state permit requirements including the failure to inform the state of changes in production and an apparent mishap.
In a 16-page letter to US Nitrogen's plant manager, Andrew Velo, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said a proposed corrective action plan must be filed with the agency by Jan. 10, along with a schedule for completion of need changes.
According to the letter from, Chris Rhodes, TDEC's Water Resources Division Manager, the on site inspection began on Oct. 17 and was completed Nov. 15. Two TDEC officials led the review but an official from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was also on hand.
As Rhodes noted some of the same deficiencies were noted in an earlier inspection. In addition to the long list of deficiencies, the letter cites other observations which could lead to future deficiencies.
The state cited the company for failing to inform TDEC of either changes in manufacturing operations or apparent deficiencies.
"Facilities for production of an ammonium nitrate solution-fuel emulsion  were in place and operating. Plans to produce aqueous ammonia and a fertilizer product referred to as AN-20 were underway," the letter states, adding that on site facilities for Praxair, a separate company, were nearing completion.
"Changes to products produced at the site may impact the applicable (NPDES) permit limitations for facility discharges," the letter warns.
Also cited were apparent changes in the use of a retention pond.
"The division hereby requests updated information detailing all production facilities, associated products and retention pond operation in place or planned for the future in order to evaluate whether changes to the (NPDES) permit are needed," the letter continues.
The on site review also turned up evidence of an "operational mishap" in early 2016 which resulted in the contamination of the steam system by an ammonium nitrate solution. The letter states that the company attempted to eliminate the contamination by flushing the system.
"Note that this type of situation should be reported to the division so that any need for permit modification can be evaluated and to provide division staff an opportunity for technical support," the letter states.
Other deficiencies cited included failure to verify meter calibrations on an annual basis, failure to record and verify thermometer readings and failure of some employees to sign reports.
TDEC also faulted the company for not notifying the state about spills on the property.
"US Nitrogen must take care to ensure that appropriate spill notifications are being made to the Division of Water Resources and/or other TDEC divisions as necessary," the letter states.
Training certification was missing for one employee and employee signatures on other training records were illegible, the inspectors found. Finally, the report states,  the company had listed the wrong TDEC officials as the contacts for various state permits.
The 23-page report faults the company for not notifying TDEC of changes in the product production and failing to report a 2016 "operational mishap" that caused contamination of the steam system.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com




Friday, December 1, 2017

Three Chemicals Exceed Limits at USN


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Storm water runoff from the US Nitrogen site in Greene County exceeded benchmarks for three different pollutants, with one exceeding that limit by a factor of 12, according to a report filed today with Tennessee officials.
The report, required on an annual basis by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, showed the excesses were recorded at two different monitoring sites in the sprawling US Nitrogen complex. The chemicals identified were magnesium, nitrogen and aluminum.
The report dated Thursday marks the third year in a row that benchmark levels have been exceeded by the chemical manufacturing company.
In a letter accompanying the report, US Nitrogen Plant Manager Andrew Velo said the cause of the excesses was not known but "we suspect the source of the magnesium and aluminum detected in the storm water samples is from concentrations and/or form water flowing across rock."
He also noted that one of the monitoring sites was located in a "non-process area of the facility" that gets runoff from maintenance buildings.
The report states that magnesium levels at one of the monitoring points was 7.91 milligrams per liter compared to the benchmark of 0.0636 milligrams per liter.
Nitrogen and nitrite concentrations were reported at 1.33 milligrams per liter compared to the benchmark concentration of 0.68 milligrams per liter.
Aluminum levels were 3.58 milligrams per liter compared to the 0.75 milligrams per liter benchmark.
Velo stated that concentrations exceeding the benchmark level have been recorded elsewhere in the area in the Nolichucky River and other surface waters.
He also stated that nitrogen was present in fertilizer used on the company site "to encourage vegetative growth and prevent soil erosion."
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Monday, November 27, 2017

TDEC Discounts US Nitrogen Complaints


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials are discounting reports of possible explosions last month at US Nitrogen's Midway manufacturing facility.
In an email dated today Ronald B. Wilhoit, an inspector for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, told one Midway resident that loud noises heard on Oct. 4 were likely the result of a high pressure steam valve that released "a handful of times" that day.
Citing information provided by US Nitrogen's plant manager, Ronald Velo, Wilhoit wrote that those releases were "likely the noise that people reported hearing."
Wilhoit said US Nitrogen did acknowledge there was "a component failure" causing the nitric acid plant to "trip" on that day.
Wilhoit said in an email to the local resident that he also checked the company's continuous emission monitoring data at the nitric acid plant for the day in question and "there were no violations of their short term emission limits for nitrogen oxides."
Similar responses have been issued by TDEC to other area residents over the past few weeks.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

US Nitrogen Draws 14.6 Million Nolichucky Gallons


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen, the Greene County chemical firm, pumped 14.6 million gallons of  water from the Nolichucky River in October and on a single day withdrew a little over 1 million.
A report filed this week with the state Department of  Environment and Conservation also shows the company pumped a little over 9 million gallons back into the river. US Nitrogen is required to file the monthly reports under the terms of one its state permits.
According to the report submitted by Plant Manager Andrew Velo the company pumped a little over one million gallons on Oct. 19. The water is pumped through a 12 mile pipeline from the Midway plant to the river.
On three days during the month, Oct. 23, Oct. 26 and Oct. 29 no water was drawn from the river. Likewise no water was pumped back into the river on those same days.
In September the company withdrew nearly the same amount from the Nolichucky and returned seven million gallons to the river.
The use of the river water has been one of the most controversial aspects of US Nitrogen's operation in Eastern Tennessee. Initially the company had indicated it would purchase water from the local utility district.
The permit allowing construction of the pipeline has been challenged in a suit pending in Chancery Court in Nashville. A new judge was assigned to hear that case earlier this week.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Judge Named in US Nitrogen Suit


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A new judge has been assigned to hear the case brought by a group of Eastern Tennessee residents challenging the legality of a permit issued by the state to a major ammonium nitrate manufacturer.
Records in Chancery Court in Nashville show Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle has been assigned to hear the challenge to the permit issued  by the Tennessee Department of Transportation to US Nitrogen and the Industrial Development Board of Greeneville and Greene County.
The case was sent back to the Nashville court after an appeals court overturned a decision by Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman. She had thrown out the suit on the grounds that the landowners lacked standing to challenge the permit.
The permit enabled the construction of a pipeline from US Nitrogen's Midway facility to the Nolichucky River. The company uses the pipeline to draw water from the river for use in its manufacturing processes.
Bonnyman recused herself from the case on Oct. 5 after the Appeals Court overturned virtually all of her findings in an 18-page decision issued in July.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Saturday, November 4, 2017

What's in a Name...Mosheim or Moshiem



US Nitrogen, the company that announced plans to operate in Greene County more than five years ago, has submitted an official notice to state environmental officials stating that it plans to install a 52,000 gallon tank in Moshiem.
The misspelling of Mosheim appears four times in the notice which was submitted to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation on Nov. 1.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

USN Tank to Hold 52,000 Gallons of Toxic Liquid


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen has filed notice with Tennessee officials that it is installing a 52,000 gallon tank which will emit under five tons of ammonia vapors per year to the atmosphere.
The notice was filed Wednesday with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. According to the filing the tank will be used to store aqua ammonia  also known as ammonium hydroxide. According to the notice some two million gallons of ammonium hydroxide will pass through the storage tank in the course of a year.
Ammonium hydroxide is classified as a highly toxic hazardous substance. Environmental officials state that the chemical can "severely irritate and burn the skin and eyes." It can also cause damage if inhaled.
Citing a formula set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Velo said that the annual ammonia emissions from the tank are expected to be 2.4 tons.
"The tank will be at ambient temperature and will be vented to the atmosphere," the letter from Velo to TDEC Director Michelle W. Owenby states
Velo said that by keeping emissions below five tons the agency should treat the tank as as an "insignificant" source thus exempting the company from the requirement to obtain a state permit.
"We believe the tank would qualify as an insignificant emissions unit and ..(it) does not require an air permit," Velo wrote.
The tank will be located near the company's facility in Midway.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com

Saturday, October 28, 2017

US Nitrogen Clears Key Test


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

With a last minute adjustment suggested by Tennessee officials, US Nitrogen has cleared a critical test on its sometimes troubled nitric acid manufacturing plant in Greene County.
Approval of the performance test and the accompanying data was disclosed in a Sept. 12 letter from Jeryl W. Stewart of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to Andrew Velo, US Nitrogen's plant manager.
The Midway company was required to submit data for 30 days of operation. TDEC said that after reviewing the revised data "the division considers the report to be technically correct and acceptable for compliance demonstration."
TDEC records show the approval came after the company submitted data for an additional day of testing. Velo wrote in an Aug. 24 letter to TDEC that the company had originally omitted the data for the day in question because it was a startup day and included only two hours of operation.
In the letter to Velo, Stewart noted that data was omitted for May 31 "due to the fact that the monitoring system was undergoing preventative maintenance during that time period."
Stewart said TDEC also reviewed acid production data from US Nitrogen and "the division agrees "the emission rate demonstrated compliance" with a rate of emissions of 3.7 pounds per hour.
"The division agrees that US Nitrogen has demonstrated compliance with the nitrogen oxide limits as set above," the letter states.
He added that US Nitrogen has also completed the performance test requirements.
US Nitrogen missed the original deadline for completing the performance test requirements.
The efforts to start up the acid plant have been marked by missteps including the emission of nitric acid vapors into the atmosphere.
The acid plant is but one part of the process of producing ammonium nitrate. US Nitrogen is shipping that chemical to Austin Powder, its corporate parent, for use in the production of explosives.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com



Monday, October 16, 2017

US Nitrogen Files River Report


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

US Nitrogen has reported that it withdrew another 19.475 million gallons of water from the Nolichucky River for use at its Midway chemical manufacturing facility in September.
In a one-page report filed with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the company reported withdrawing over 900,000 gallons from the Nolichucky on two days with less than 900,000 reported on all other days.
On two days, Sept. 25 and Sept. 28 the company drew no water from the river.
Water discharged back into the river in September totaled more than seven million gallons. On nine days during the month no water was discharged back to the river, That includes from Sept. 1 through Sept. 5.
The reports are required under the terms of one of US Nitrogen's state permits.
The company had reported drawing nearly exactly the same amount from the river in August. The report for July showed 14 million gallons were withdrawn.

Monday, October 9, 2017

TDEC Says No Damage from US Nitrogen Incident


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials have concluded that there was no damage from the April 19 release of nitric acid vapor from the US Nitrogen's Midway plant and any harm to residents was unlikely.
In a nine-page report, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation also said that under state and federal regulations US Nitrogen was not even required to report the incident because the amount of nitric acid released was well below the threshold triggering a reporting requirement.
The agency did say that it was referring one complaint from a local resident to the state Health Department.
In a letter to US Nitrogen accompanying the report, TDEC division director Michelle W. Owenby, said the agency was closing its investigation.
According to the report, about 424 pounds of nitric acid was released over a four minute period in the April incident caused by the rupture of a heat exchanger. However, it states the level that triggers a reporting requirement is 15,000 pounds.
"In the case of the April 19, 2017 incident, the amount released is below the reportable thresholds and USN reported the release incident even though it fell below the reporting levels as identified," the report states.
In addition the reporting requirement only applies to releases with a concentration of 80 per cent or more, but the nitric acid in use at US Nitrogen had a concentration of only 59 per cent, TDEC found.
"For reasons noted above, the division concludes that section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act is not applicable to the event on April 19, that involved nitric acid of 59 per cent concentration," the report continues.
Citing the fact that much of the land around the US Nitrogen plant is owned by the company or the Industrial Development Authority, TDEC concluded that "no serious environmental or health impacts likely occurred."
The report states that the closest school, West Greene High School is 1.9 miles away and the Mosheim Elementary School is 2.7 miles east of the plant. The closest business is about a quarter mile away.
The population density is very low in the area and the closest residences are nearly a half mile away, the report states.  In addition the release occurred at 6 p.m. when "local schools would not be in session and most local businesses would have already closed for the day."
TDEC did note that a "vehicle reconnaissance" of the area showed evidence of old homes or residences located on the properties owned by US Nitrogen and the IDB.
As for the weather, TDEC said that the presence of rain showers at the time of the release "likely helped to mitigate the transport of any nitric acid emissions associated with the event."
TDEC did say that it received one complaint of "alleged health-related impacts associated with the event." The agency also received one anonymous call complaining of health related effects, but that caller chose not to file a formal complaint.
The one formal complaint is being referred to the state Health Department.
"Finally, the division does not believe any environmental damage occurred as a result of the April 19 incident," the report concludes.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

August US Nitrogen Incident Reported


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Officials of US Nitrogen have filed a report with the state disclosing that an early August incident forced a shutdown of its Green County ammonia plant.
Calling it a "process upset," US Nitrogen's manager Andrew Velo wrote that the incident resulted in three abnormal flare events "which led to an operating shutdown."
In a letter to Michelle Owenby, the manager of air pollution programs at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Velo said that the incident triggered an internal investigation to determine the root cause.
According to the letter, as a result of the investigation some equipment had to be replaced and extensive staff training was implemented. Still further training may yet be required.
The incident is the latest in a series of start up misfires that have triggered concern among some area residents.
Velo wrote that the internal investigation found that liquid carryover from an ammonia liquid let-down vessel led to the incident when the ammonia combined with water to form excess levels of aqua-ammonia, triggering the flare events.
"This level resulted in heavy flare events during plant pressure variations. The investigation team  determined that uncertainty in interpreting the fault state of the level indication on D-7 and the subsequent operational response due to this uncertainty were the main root causes of this incident," Velo's letter states.
The plant manager said the investigative team determined that some changes including the replacement of some equipment had to be completed before the plant could be restarted.
He listed a series of actions, including retesting of all let-down vessels "to verify functionality and reliability, and replacement of a pressure valve.
Velo said all recommended steps were taken before start up  and that the plant has operated without incident since the re-start. He did not disclose the date of the start up.
"Several long term actions related to training and operating procedures have been identified and will be completed in the coming months," the letter concludes.
Contact: wfrochejr999@gmail.com
 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

US Nitrogen Fined For Permit Violations


By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Tennessee environmental officials have imposed a $1,500 fine on Greene' County's US Nitrogen LLC for violating provisions of one of its air pollution permits multiple times last year.
In a seven-page order issued this week, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said that the violations occurred on two days in late October and one day in early December when the company was trying to start its nitric acid plant.
According to the violation notice, an amended permit originally issued to US Nitrogen in early 2012 required that the company limit to 15 the number of burners operating on its two ammonia  trains during start-up efforts. The order was signed by TDEC Technical Secretary Michelle Walker Owenby.
The limit on burners was imposed after it was learned that US Nitrogen did not yet have a Selective Catalytic Converter in full operation, a requirement under the original permit for the anhydrous ammonia production plant.
The limits were set to ensure the plant did not exceed nitrous oxide emission limits, according to the TDEC notice.
The complain states that between 16 and 24 burners were in operation on Oct. 23,  Oct. 24 and Dec. 2 of last year during three startup efforts.
Although the new notice states that TDEC can impose fine of up to $25,000 a day for such violations, it set the US Nitrogen fine at $1,500.
TDEC had issued a notice last month indicating it was proposing to take action on the violations, but did not disclose a proposed fine.
 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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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."
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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.
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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. 
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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.
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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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