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.

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.

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.

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.

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.