Thursday, September 14, 2017

Local Group Frustrated Over US Nitrogen Concerns

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

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

US Nitrogen Drew 19.5 million Gallons From River

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

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

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.