Tag Archives: TDEC

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.

Mayor calls letter to TDEC ‘an embarassment’

The Bradley County Commission Tuesday backed off plans to send the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation a letter urging the TDEC commissioner to fire three of his lawyers, cut salaries of other employees and spend the money instead on speeding up septic tank inspections.

So reports The Chattanoogan, adding that the decision came after County Mayor D. Gary Davis called the letter to Commissioner Robert Martineau “an embarrassment to Bradley County.”

The county mayor said, “We have to deal with the state on everything we do. It affects a lot of things we do. I sincerely ask you do not send this letter.”

Bradley Commission Decides Not To Send Letter To TDEC That County Mayor Called “Embarrassing To Bradley County”

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Bradley County Commissioners on Tuesday night decided not to send a letter to Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Commissioner Bob Martineau, asking him to cut top staff positions and shift the funds to aid local septic permit offices after County Mayor D. Gary Davis called the letter “an embarrassment to Bradley County.”

The county mayor said, “We have to deal with the state on everything we do. It affects a lot of things we do. I sincerely ask you do not send this letter.”

The letter said, “We, the Bradley County Commission, respectfully suggest that you consider eliminating three staff attorney positions, general counsel, director of legal services and deputy commissioner 1. We, the Bradley County Commission, also respectfully suggest that you reduce the compensation of the commissioner, commissioner 1 and deputy commissioner by $30,000 annually.”

Commissioner Charlotte Peak said, “I don’t like it when they tell us what to do so I don’t feel like we should tell them what to do.”

Commissioner Terry Caywood said if state officials got such a letter “they could get vindictive. They have the means to punish you when you touch an area they don’t want to be touched.”

Commissioner Thomas Crye said some of the TDEC attorneys mentioned are spread across the state, including one in Chattanooga. He said the state budget is already set. He said, “I am not in the business of micro-managing Governor Haslam’s budget.”

Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber, who drafted the letter, said the state continually under-funded the office that issues septic permits for Bradley and Polk counties. He said the letter was “a statement to a top-heavy government.”

He said the employees trying to keep up with the calls for septic permits “are not paid even a fourth of what they (top TDEC commissioners and lawyers) are paid.”

Mark Hall, who supported sending the letter, said, “I find it hard to believe that 14 county commissioners fear retribution.”

He said, “We’ve got a loose cannon down here with a poor attitude.” He said if Bradley County did not speak up, “We will continue to be the sacrificial lamb.”

Realtor Jim Davis spoke in support of the septic permit manager, Hank Thompson, saying he had always gotten excellent service from him. (Note: Some commissioners contend Thompson hasn’t approved permits fast enough; TDEC has defended him.)

…The original motion went down 11-3… The commission proceeded to put an ad hoc committee headed by Commissioner Caywood in place to study taking over the septic permit operation from the state.

Supremes reverse appeals court, defer to TDEC in pollution lawsuit

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts
Nashville, Tenn. ­– The Tennessee Supreme Court has reversed a Court of Appeals decision concerning the cleanup of a landfill that has been discharging pollutants into a Maury County lake.

From 1981 to 1993, ACC, LLC operated a landfill in Maury County, Tennessee, where it disposed of aluminum recycling wastes from a local aluminum smelting plant. Within a few years of becoming operational, the landfill began to discharge chlorides and ammonia into water that drained into a local lake. This discharge was in violation of the Water Quality Control Act and the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Act.

Over several years, ACC worked with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) in an attempt to remedy the problem. After a number of efforts proved unsuccessful, ACC and TDEC agreed that the best solution would be to remove the waste causing the pollution from the landfill site. In 2011, ACC and TDEC entered into an administrative consent order requiring ACC to divert water from entering the landfill and, over a four-year period, remove the landfill waste. The order was filed in the Davidson County Chancery Court for approval.
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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.”

Haslam lets ‘cumbersome’ and ‘confusing’ bill become law

Gov. Bill Haslam has refused to sign a bill revising the state’s storm water drainage rules because of environmental concerns, but will let it become law anyway.

Here’s text of his letter on the matter to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell, as provided by the governor’s office:

Lieutenant Governor Ramsey:

I am letting Senate Bill 1830/House Bill 1892 become law without my signature.

I have concerns about the potential impacts of this legislation and the limits it places on the State’s ability to protect our water resources adequately. In addition, the bill imposes on local governments a cumbersome procedural mechanism that will cause confusion for those communities as they seek to implement required storm water pollutant removal programs. I am concerned that some of the ambiguous and confusing language of the bill could lead to costly litigation. As Governor, I am a strong proponent of economic growth and development, but I am equally committed to ensuring that we protect Tennessee’s air, land and water resources for today and for future generations of Tennesseans.


Bill Haslam

Note: Previous post on the bill HERE.

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.”

TDEC, environmentalists oppose bill revising stormwater rules

Despite opposition from Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, a bill to change state rules on regulating stormwater drainage has won Senate approval and appears poised for House passage as well.

The bill (SB1830) is being pushed by the Home Builders Association of Tennessee. It would effectively loosen the rules for issuance of water quality permits to developers and is sponsored by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Curtis Halford, R-Dyer, and Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Steve Southerland, R-Morristown. Basically, it declares that state standards on stormwater runoff can be no stricter than federal standards.

A key effect would be elimination of the so-called “1-inch rule” that’s now in effect across the state, mandating that the permit applicant assure that up to 1 inch of rainfall be absorbed within the development property without any runoff.

Current state standards are based on a 2010 Environmental Protection Agency rule that has since been changed, at least in part thanks to action by homebuilders at the national level, according to Robert Martineau, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
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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.”

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No bids received for TN state parks outsourcing

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s effort to outsource hospitality operations at 11 state parks has failed to draw any interest from private vendors.

Haslam has long said park services like restaurants, golf courses, inns and marinas are prime examples of areas where private vendors could do a better and cheaper job than state government.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation earlier this month requested $55 million to upgrade facilities at parks before operations could be handed over to private vendors. But at least one of the three companies that had expressed interest in a bid dropped out over uncertainty about whether lawmakers would approve the money.

Brock Hill, a deputy commissioner of the Environment and Conservation Department, told reporters after budget hearings earlier this month that vendors who toured the parks were “shocked, to some degree, that they were in as bad shape as they were.”

“They hadn’t been reinvested in to the degree they should have been over the last few decades,” he said.

Haslam spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals said Monday that the administration “is evaluating potential next steps at this time.”
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Feds move to ban mountaintop removal in part of TN

The federal government is moving closer to granting Tennessee’s request to ban mountaintop mining in parts of the Cumberland Mountains, which was filed years ago under former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration.

Further from the News Sentinel:

The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement released draft documents on Thursday that would designate portions of East Tennessee’s mountain ridges as unsuitable for surface coal mining.

Specifically, the draft proposal and draft Environmental Impact Statement would place 67,000 acres in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and the Emory River Tract Conservation Easement off-limits to surface mining.

Re-mining would be allowed in certain areas once mining companies obtain all the necessary permits and authorizations.

“We took Tennessee’s request to act on this matter very seriously,” said Glenda Owens, the agency’s deputy director. “Our staff rigorously evaluated Tennessee’s petition and the impacts of mining in the requested area.”

A final decision won’t be made until after a 45-day public comment period that will end next Jan. 25, the agency said in a news release.

Mountaintop removal is a form of surface mining in which the top of a mountain is blasted away so workers can access coal seams. The rubble is then dumped into adjacent valleys. The process allows coal companies to economically access seams otherwise too small to mine near the tops of ridges.

In 2010, then-Gov. Phil Bredesen petitioned the federal government to ban mountaintop mining in the North Cumberland Plateau. The affected land is in Scott, Morgan, Anderson and Campbell counties, all of which is included in wildlife management areas that make up the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area.

Note: A news release is below.
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