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.