Tag Archives: pollution

TDEC fines Bluff City $25K for discharging sewage into lake

Bluff City has been fined $25,760 by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for discharging 15,000 gallons of sewage into Boone Lake, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

The city will pay at least $3,864 of that fine, and it must be paid by Oct. 24. But Bluff City can avoid a large majority of the fine by following certain orders handed down by the state, according to a TDEC order issued on Sept. 23.

Those include fully implementing a corrective action plan before Jan. 16, 2017; submitting a capacity, management, operation and maintenance plan that must be approved by the state for a period of two years; submitting a written sewer overflow response plan to the state; and submit annual summary reports of all overflows and corrective action taken for three years starting in 2018.

…The fine stems from incidents that took place between Feb. 18, 2015, and Aug. 21, 2016. A total of 18 overflows occurred during that time period, and 10 of those occurred because of a faulty pump at the town’s Igloo pump station. At one point, 15,000 gallons of sewage reached Boone Lake.

The sewage overflow violated Tennessee Annotated Code 69-3-108(b) and 69-3-114(a), which basically say it is unlawful for sewage to be discharged into waters and the city caused a condition of pollution.

The faulty pump stations are in the process of being replaced with an expected completion date still 15 months away. The faulty pumps have given Bluff City headaches for the past year and spurred the filing of two separate lawsuits by families who say they have experienced hardships because of the raw sewage overflows.

A grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and higher water prices are combining to pay for the replacement of the pumps.

TVA agrees to reduce coal plants’ water pollution

Press release from Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Knoxville, Tenn. (July 27, 2016) – The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Earthjustice, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Environmental Integrity Project and the Sierra Club recently reached a settlement agreement with the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation (TDEC) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to better protect Tennesseans from toxic metals and other pollutants in water discharges from TVA’s Gallatin, Bull Run and Kingston coal plants.

After fighting the issue for more than six years, TDEC and TVA finally agreed to reduce the pollutants in water discharged under the three plants’ Clean Water Act operating permits issued by TDEC. Under the settlement agreement, TVA must incorporate new federal guidelines for the discharge of toxic pollutants like arsenic and selenium and submit updated permit applications for Gallatin, Bull Run and Kingston to TDEC by November 2, 2016. By including these updated public health requirements in the operating permits for these three coal plants, TVA will reduce the amount of toxic pollution it dumps in our waterways by over 90 percent for most significant pollutants.

TVA’s practice, like many other major utilities in the Southeast, has been to adopt the minimum requirements for wastewater discharge for their coal plants. TVA has largely failed to update its operating permits despite industry innovation that has made it cheaper for coal plants to reduce the amount of toxins it discharges into our rivers and streams.

The settlement agreement is a critical piece in protecting our health and our environment in Tennessee, especially because all three of the coal plants will be operating into the foreseeable future. TVA does not maintain good water monitoring records, but based on the most recent information we could find, these three coal plants discharged over 1,300 pounds of selenium, which is highly toxic to fish, and over 1,700 pounds of arsenic, a potent carcinogen and neurotoxin, in 2015. Under the new permits required by the agreement, the selenium discharges will fall by 97 percent, and the arsenic discharges will fall by 94 percent.

“SACE has a long history of engaging with TVA and believes TVA has dragged its feet on this issue, to the detriment of our health and our rivers,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “By ensuring that both TVA and TDEC move quickly to incorporate the most protective pollution standards, our communities and waterways will be healthier and TVA will be held accountable for the impacts its coal plants have on our lives.”

“This is a good result for every Tennessean; all of whom deserve clean, safe water to drink and recreate in,” said Jonathan Levenshus, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Tennessee. “TVA’s new water discharge permits at coal plants will have to include EPA’s new Effluent Limitation Guidelines —which provide strong, efficient protections for our water, environment and public health—and our state’s regulator will no longer be able to delay action, letting the old permits continue without a fair review.”

“We took on this fight over six years ago, and it has been an uphill battle all the way,” said Abel Russ, attorney for Environmental Integrity Project. “But we hung in there, and the things we have been asking for are now required by law, so TVA must – finally – start to take environmental stewardship seriously.”

“It is past time for these three dinosaur coal plants to modernize,” said Earthjustice attorney Mary Whittle. “These new, stronger permit requirements are critical to protecting the Cumberland, Clinch, and Emory Rivers and to protecting the people of Tennessee who depend on these rivers for drinking water and recreation.”

“After years of negotiations with TVA, these new discharge standards will improve water quality in Tennessee,” said Renee Hoyos, executive director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network. “As these waters are the source of drinking water for millions of citizens in the Volunteer state, meeting these new standards can’t come soon enough.”

These conservation groups will continue to track this issue and ensure that the final permits approved by TDEC have the most protective pollution limits in order to keep our waters and our communities safe and healthy.

Environmentalist lawsuit says chemicals polluting TN River

A nonprofit environmental organization has filed a federal lawsuit against two companies, along with three governmental entities, over the dumping of chemicals, reports the Decatur Daily.

Tennessee Riverkeeper Inc. filed the suit against 3M, BFI Waste Systems, the city of Decatur, Decatur Utilities and Morgan County because of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) being dumped in the Tennessee River and landfills, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, alleges the dumping has contaminated groundwater, private water supplies, the river and its tributaries and wildlife, and public drinking water supplies.

The organization claims the dumping has created an “imminent and substantial endangerment to health and the environment,” Executive Director David Whiteside said in a statement.

The chemicals were used at 3M to make nonstick coatings until 2000, when the company voluntarily announced it would phase them out. Before then, 3M believed the chemicals were not hazardous, said the company’s attorney, Travis Carter, of Dallas.

The company no longer produces PFOS or PFOA in Decatur, so any presence of the chemicals is from prior manufacturing, Carter said.

3M said it has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to reduce or eliminate the presence of the chemicals at the plant and in the Decatur area. Remediation began in 2006 and will continue through 2019, the company said.

However, the EPA and ADEM have not established regulations that prohibit the discharge of the chemicals, so 3M always has operated “legally and in compliance with regulations,” Carter said.

The attorney for the city and county, which jointly own the Morgan County Regional Landfill, said the entities also are working to reduce the amount of chemicals released into the environment through the landfill and the DU Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Attorney Barney Lovelace said the city and county also haven’t violated any regulations in the discharge of the chemicals.

Lovelace said his clients believe the cost of removing the chemicals from the environment should be placed on the companies that dumped the waste in the landfill and through DU’s wastewater plant.

3M said it has studied the effects of the chemicals in its own employees and found no adverse health effects from exposure.

With TDEC approval (?), chicken farmers dodge pollution regulations

With apparent approval of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, WTVF-TV reports a Macon County husband and wife split their chicken production property in half to avoid the need for a permit and the stricter regulations that go with it.

The farm’s owner Ryan Russell applied for a permit to house up to 70 thousand chickens, but a farm that size required annual inspections and regular oversight. So Russell divided his property between the barns — putting two barns in his wife’s name — and two in his name.
Suddenly both were small enough to avoid the stricter regulations.

(The four chicken barns provide chickens for a Cobb-Vantress, a subsidiary of Tyson Chicken.)

… Sierra Club Attorney Brian Paddock was shocked when we showed him how the husband and wife operations were able to get around regulations… “They’re doing everything they can to avoid regulation and they probably know that the cop waves them through,” Paddock said.

The cop in this case is the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation — which is supposed to make sure tons of manure from the barns doesn’t pollute surrounding streams.

Our investigation uncovered e-mails in which an executive with Cobb – Vantress laid out plans to split the farm to the state.

The executive writes “just wanting to make sure we are on the same page before Ryan spends the money to have his two farms split up. If he has two farms split up to where one is in his name and one is in his wife’s name will that make it so that he doesn’t have to apply for a CAFO permit.”

After the state gave the split their approval, the Cobb – Vantress executive forwards the e-mail to farmer Ryan Russell… with an FYI and an explanation point.

TDEC would not do an interview about the situation. But their spokesperson said the land owners may have taken advantage of the situation, but insisted the state never advised them to split their property.

…Cobb-Vantress said in a statement… “The email you have referred to is a communication to clarify a request about information regarding the farms’ operation status. Our complex manager asked TDEC a question and TDEC responded. Our manager then provided the information to the farmer.”

Massive Memphis sewage spill contaminates lake, kills fish

A massive spill of raw sewage from a ruptured line in Southwest Memphis has produced a “large and growing” fish kill in McKellar Lake, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The number of fish that have died is unknown but could reach into the thousands, said Kelly Brockman, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The fish kill resulted from a damaged Memphis sewer line that is spewing up to 50 million gallons of waste daily into Cypress Creek, which empties into the lake near the Mitsubishi Electric manufacturing plant on Paul R. Lowry Road.

State and local officials have posted signs giving notice that water in the area may be contaminated and people should avoid contact with it. City officials on Monday also closed the boat ramp at Riverside Park Marina until further notice. The ramp provides access to McKellar, which is not truly a lake but a slack water harbor off the Mississippi River.

The rupture occurred Thursday after heavy rains eroded the ground beneath the sewer line, which carries sewage to the T.E. Maxson South Treatment Plant. City officials said Monday that public works crews are working around the clock to construct a bypass to halt the spill and should have one completed on Wednesday.

In the meantime, the wastewater is depleting the oxygen in the lake, causing fish to die.

“There is a fish kill,” Brockman said. “It’s large and growing.”

Enforcement of TN water pollution rules declining?

An environmental group is questioning why the Haslam administration’s water quality enforcement against polluters appears to be disappearing down a drain, reports the Times-Free Press.

The Tennessee Clean Water Network said its study shows water quality enforcement orders by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation against water polluters dropped from 219 in 2007 to just 15 during 2015.

That’s a 93 percent drop the group warned. And it impacts protection of state waterways “that are the source of drinking water for millions of Tennesseans.”

…TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau said the environmental group is looking solely at penalties collected as enforcement action.

“There’s an array of what we take as enforcement actions, from the reading of the report they send in with what your discharge levels, to inspections, to all the way up to what we call formal enforcement actions that are orders or civil judicial actions,” he said. “Those are all tools in the tool box.

“If we do an inspection and identify a problem and within a few days the source comes back into compliance, that’s our goal, it’s compliance,” the commissioner said. “Enforcement actions usually mean that somebody hasn’t, after reasonable efforts to try to comply, they just haven’t gotten their facilities corrected, then we take a more formal action with what they call enforcement action.”

Asked if critics might call that regulation light, Martineau said, “Again, it’s a matter of perspective. We get a lot of people telling us that every time we issue a penalty we’re over-enforcing and we’re putting people out of business. Our goal is compliance.”

He said the state’s compliance rates “are extremely high, higher than they’ve ever been.”

Continue reading

TN legislators want to reduce auto emission testing

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers are set to vote on loosening vehicle emissions testing requirements as soon as they return in January, undeterred by Volkswagen’s recent admission that it had been gaming the tests already in place.

The bill is the latest in a series of efforts by Republican lawmakers to dial back the state’s emissions testing program, which currently applies only in six of the state’s 95 counties.

It speaks to the lack of political will in much of the country, even in the aftermath of the Volkswagen scandal, to require the kind of rigorous testing that would catch widespread cheating by automakers. Experts say technology is capable of catching more violators, but with the cost of making repairs largely borne by vehicle owners, elected officials who already have an aversion to government regulation are wary of programs likely to impose new costs on their constituents.

In Tennessee and elsewhere, some still push for more lenient testing programs.
Continue reading

VW troubles escalate; TN legislature to investigate

As Volkswagen’s troubles escalated internationally on Tuesday, state Sen. Bo Watson called for a legislative committee hearing “at the earliest possible date” to consider possible impact within Tennessee, where lawmakers honored Gov. Bill Haslam’s request for $165 million in incentive payments to Volkswagen earlier this year.

“While all of the relevant facts may remain unreported at this time, I am very concerned as to the financial impact these violatons could present to the State of Tennessee,” Watson wrote Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally in a letter distributed to media Tuesday.

“It therefore seems prudent and responsible that the Finance, Ways and Means Committee of the Tennessee Senate consider a public meeting to hear testimony from Volkswagen and state officials as to the impact upon Tennessee’s investment in Volkswagen,” Watson said.

McNally said later, according to a Senate Republican Caucus spokeswoman, that he “will schedule a hearing as soon as we coordinate with committee members and the other parties involved.”

Watson, R-Hixson, represents a portion of Hamilton County, where Volkswagen has built a major facility and received huge payments for doing so from the state.

Here’s an AP story on Volkswagen’s troubles, filed about the same time Watson’s letter was sent:

BERLIN (AP) — Volkswagen AG’s smog-test scandal escalated Tuesday as the company issued a profit warning, set aside billions to cover the fallout and lost billions more in market value. VW’s CEO said he is “endlessly sorry” that the world’s top-selling carmaker has squandered worldwide trust in its brand.

The rapid-fire developments came as Volkwagen stunningly admitted that some 11 million of the German carmaker’s diesel vehicles worldwide contain software that evades emissions controls, not just the half a million cars that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said violate the Clean Air Act.

Volkswagen also warned that future profits could be affected, and set aside an initial 6.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) to cover the fallout.
Continue reading

Holt says he’s unfairly targeted by EPA

(Note: This is a response from Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) to the Environmental Protection Agency proposing penalties totaling $177,000 for pollution by his hog farming operation in Weakley County. Previous post HERE.)
News release from Rep. Andy Holt/em>
DRESDEN, Tenn., August 31, 2015– Tennessee State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) says he is the leading voice against the EPA in the State House. Because of his opposition, the EPA now has him and his family farm in their cross-hairs.

“It’s clear what’s going on here,” said Holt. “In an attempt to stand for Tennessee’s farmers and small businesses, I have sponsored multiple pieces of legislation and led many requests to the State Attorney General to fight back against President Obama’s EPA. We saw President Obama’s IRS being used to target conservative groups, and now the EPA is being used in the same manner. This is one of the main reasons why I wanted to come to Nashville and serve in the state legislature. I wanted to keep farm families in Tennessee from having to endure the financially & emotionally crushing experience of dealing with an out of control regulatory agency; little did I know that this fight would become so personal.”
Continue reading

EPA seeks $177K in pollution penalties from Rep. Andy Holt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A state lawmaker is facing up to $177,500 in fines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for discharging waste from his northwestern Tennessee hog farm without a permit.

WTVF-TV in Nashville (http://bit.ly/1LyT4kq ) first reported Thursday that the EPA has filed the complaint against state Rep. Andy Holt, a Dresden Republican and vice chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. According to the filing, Holt’s farm discharged a total of more than 860,000 gallons from lagoons on the farm raising nearly 1,500 swine without proper authorization.

Holt, who has been a vocal critic of the EPA, told WTVF that he “loves a good fight,” but that he has also been in discussions about a settlement. He said he self-reported the discharges to the state after heavy rainfall had caused the lagoons to overflow.

State records have showed that Holt ran his farm without a permit for nearly three years when he was finally ordered to turn in required permitting paperwork in 2012. While Holt submitted incomplete papers in 2012 and 2013, the state let him keep operating.

Holt said he ceased operations on his hog farm around December 2014.
Continue reading