Tag Archives: Water

TDEC says it’s now OK to expose yourself to Little Pigeon River water

News release from Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau announces the lifting of a water contact advisory of the Little Pigeon River, downstream of Sevierville in Sevier County.

Water contact advisories have also been lifted for several small tributaries to the West Prong of the Little Pigeon, including Gnatty Branch, Baskins Creek, King Branch, Roaring Fork and Holy Branch. The remaining water contact advisories on the West Prong Little Pigeon River, plus Dudley Creek and Beech Creek, will remain in place while additional pathogen testing is performed during the summer of 2014.

“I am pleased to announce that due to the efforts of many people in Sevier County, including state, county, municipal governments and the National Park Service, many of the long-standing water quality issues that led to the original advisory have been resolved,” Martineau said. “As a result, water quality is greatly improved and the department no longer considers the contact warnings to be necessary. Progress continues on streams that need additional improvement.”

The Tennessee Water Quality Control Act requires that the department post signs and inform the public when bacteria in water or contaminants in sediment or fish tissue cause public heath to be unduly at risk from exposure. In 1993, elevated fecal coliform levels were found in the Little Pigeon River downstream of Sevierville, the West Prong Little Pigeon downstream of Gatlinburg and within Pigeon Forge, plus multiple tributaries. The sources of the bacteria were thought to be, depending on the location, overflows from municipal sewage treatment facilities and collection systems, failing, improperly-sited and concentrated septic tanks and the direct connection of household wastewater to streams.

Once these problems were identified, local city and county officials took the lead in identifying and resolving problem areas. The City of Sevierville upgraded their sewage treatment plant and moved the outfall from the Little Pigeon River to the French Broad River, a much larger body of water. Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg worked to locate and eliminate improper sewer connections and leaks from pipes. State and county officials walked streams to look for “straight pipes” of household wastes into streams and to spot septic tanks in need of rehabilitation.

Since some impacted portions of the West Prong and its tributaries were within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the National Park Service was very active in the process to plan and implement the monitoring of pathogen levels. With assistance from the City of Gatlinburg, the Park Service worked with the Dudley Creek Stable concessionaire to install a new wash rack for the horses and connect it to the Gatlinburg sewer system. In addition, they moved a one-mile section of riding trail away from Duds Branch.

An event will be held April 29 at 4:30 p.m. in Sevierville to celebrate the lifting of the water contact advisories. The event, which will be attended by Commissioner Martineau and local officials from Sevier County, Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the National Park Service, will be held at the Sevier County Fairgrounds in Sevierville. In case of rain, the event will be moved to the red barn located at the fairgrounds.

TN legislators not concerned about looming Georgia deadline for granting access to TN River water

Many Tennessee legislators are apparently unaware that they’ve been given a deadline for action on a proposal from Georgia intended to settle a boundary dispute between the two states, according to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. And, upon learning about it, the attitude is, it seems, so what?

Georgia lawmakers say Tennessee can have the strip of land — and its 30,817 residents — provided the Volunteer State gives up an unpopulated 1.5 square miles near Dade County so a pipeline could be built to pump up to 1 billion gallons a day from Nickajack Lake to water-thirsty Atlanta.

If Tennessee doesn’t agree by the time the Georgia Assembly ends it 40-day session, then Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens is instructed to file suit in the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a resolution that Georgia lawmakers passed overwhelmingly last year.

As of Monday, the Georgia General Assembly was more than halfway through its session, and lawmakers plan to finish by March 20.

“If I were a legislator in Tennessee, I would say, ‘These people are giving us a gift. We should take it and run with it,” said state Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, who wrote the resolution that would let Tennessee keep the disputed land in exchange for water.

“I’m a little bit surprised that Tennessee hasn’t taken some action,” he said recently.

Geisinger’s resolution made headlines last year, but it isn’t on the Tennessee General Assembly’s radar now.

“We’re clearly not too worried about it, because I haven’t heard about it,” said state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga.

McCormick is unconcerned about the potential for a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court, which settles interstate boundary disputes.

“That’s fine. They might as well go ahead,” he said. “More power to them. We’re not going to move the state line, and we’re not going to give them the Tennessee River.”

Georgia TV Interviews Haslam on Border Dispute

Atlanta TV station WXIA has interviewed Gov. Bill Haslam about Georgia’s push to revise its border with Tennessee. An excerpt:
Not surprisingly, Haslam says he likes the status quo – and has only a passing interest in Georgia’s claim to a piece of the Tennessee River.
“We’re very satisfied with the situation the way it is now for, good reason,” Haslam said.
Q: Do you think Georgia has any busines accessing the Tennessee river?
Halsam: “Well, that’s for somebody beyond my capacity. Ask that to an engineer or somebody who can answer that.”
Q: Well, surveyors say that they do.
A: Yeah. Again, it’s not an issue I spend a whole lot of time focused on.
Haslam says he’s aware that the Georgia legislature passed a resolution calling for the state to sue Tennessee to change the state line to the 35th parallel-if Georgia can’t access the river.
The resolution proposes, as a potential compromise, that Tennessee cede a one-square-mile piece of land that would give Georgia geographical access to the Tennessee River and Nickajack Lake.
This week, Georgia governor Nathan Deal said he would approach Haslam at a conference of Republican governors about negotiations.
“I think there is an opportunity to at least have a civil discussion about that issue,” Deal said.


Hat tip: TNReport, which has a video of the TV station making its video.

TDEC demotes staffer who talked water quality terrorism

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation demoted the official who told a group of Mount Pleasant residents that unfounded complaints about water quality could be considered terrorism, reports The Tennessean.
Sherwin Smith, who was deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources, was demoted effective June 26, the agency said Tuesday. He returns to his prior position with the state’s Revolving Fund Program, which helps fund water projects in the state with low-interest loans.
“This is a lower-ranking position,” said Meg Lockhart, spokeswoman for TDEC. “It is my understanding the salary will be less than what he would be making had he not been removed from that position.”

(Previous post HERE)

Complaining About Water Quality Could be ‘Act of Terrorism’

A Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy director warned a group of Maury County residents that unfounded complaints about water quality could be considered an “act of terrorism,” reports The Tennessean.
“We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously,” said Sherwin Smith, deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources, according to audio recorded by attendees.
“But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.”
“Can you say that again, please?” an audience member can be heard asking on the audio. Smith went on in the recording to repeat the claim almost verbatim.
The audio was recorded May 29 by Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, a Smyrna-based civic action group that had been working with Maury County residents to tackle water quality complaints in Mount Pleasant.
Residents there have complained to the state for months, saying some children had become ill drinking the water. The meeting was organized by State Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, and attended by residents, TDEC and local officials.


UPDATE: TDEC says the comment was “inappropriate.”

Note: News release from enviornmental groups is below.

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TN Legislators Cheer Georgia Senator’s Border Stance

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers gave rousing applause to welcome a Georgia senator who opposed a resolution calling for redrawing the border between the two states.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville introduced Republican Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga, Ga., during a floor session on Wednesday.
Norris joked that Mullis was not in exile because of his position on the Georgia-Tennessee border dispute.
Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga gave Mullis a signed coffee cup of water to take back to Atlanta.
Georgia lawmakers argue that an 1818 survey misplaced what should have been the state line at 35th parallel. If Tennessee’s southern border stretched along the parallel, Georgia could take water from the Tennessee River.
The resolution calls for Georgia’s attorney general to sue if negotiations with Tennessee fail.

Georgia Can ‘Keep Its Greedy Hands’ Out of TN River Water

Tennessee House members cheered, whistled and noisily clapped Thursday as a Nashville colleague launched a verbal barrage at Georgia’s demands for access to Tennessee River water, observes Andy Sher.
“I believe that we might be the Volunteer State, but I believe in no way should we surrender any part of our state, particularly land and water we’ve possessed for nearly 200 years,” Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville, said in his floor speech.
“Just because another state and a specific large city in that state has not done a better job for planning and development” doesn’t mean they can poach something that belongs to Tennessee, Powell said. “As far as I’m concerned, Georgia can keep its greedy hands and its thirsty mouths away from our water.”
Replied House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga: “I believe the representative can rest easy.”
Georgia state Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold, said later Thursday that Powell was “grandstanding.”
“He probably is looking for something to prop up his notoriety,” he said.
The Georgia Legislature recently passed a resolution that seeks to negotiate with Tennessee over a small portion of land in Marion County that would let it tap the river.

Haslam, TVA Chief Shrug Off Georgia’s Bid for TN River Water

Gov. Bill Haslam and TVA’s new CEO, Bill Johnson, are indicating that Georgia’s legislative effort to move the state border and divert Tennessee River water to Atlanta is little more than time-consuming fighting words,according to the Chattanooga TFP.
Haslam, through a spokesman, said he has no interest in going along with Georgia’s latest attempt to get access to the mighty river to help slake the Peach State’s thirst for water. Georgia lawmakers are threatening to march into the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the nearly 200-year disputed state boundary issue if Tennessee won’t grant access to the river in Marion County.
“The governor will continue to protect the interests and resources of Tennessee,” Haslam spokesman David Smith said via email.
One Tennessee lawmaker, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, was more strident.
“Well, they’ve threatened to take us to court, so I guess we’ll let the AG’s [attorney general] office take care of it and go to court with them,” said the Chattanooga Republican. “We’re not going to pass a law to give them water.”

Georgia Senator: ‘This Time We’re Serious’ About TN River Fight

From the Chattanooga TFP:
Despite nine previous resolutions that have left a 200-year-old border dispute unresolved, Georgia lawmakers want Tennessee to know this time they mean business.
In a vote Monday, Georgia senators approved House Resolution 4 with one key change: If Tennessee declines to settle, the dispute will be handed over to the attorney general, who will take Tennessee before the Supreme Court to settle the issue once and for all.
“I would hope that the Tennessee House and Senate would realize that one, we’re serious,” said Georgia state Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, “and two, there’s no reason we shouldn’t resolve it and move on.”
Geisinger’s resolution in the House offers to relinquish 66.5 square miles of land that Georgia lawmakers claim is rightfully theirs in return for a 1.5-mile strip that would give them access to the Tennessee River at Nickajack Lake. The Peach State could build a pipeline to deliver up to 1 billion gallons of water a day to thirsty Atlanta and other parts of Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
“This resolution is a good-faith offer to settle the long-standing dispute,” said Brad Carver, an attorney for the Atlanta firm Hall Booth Smith.
Tennessee lawmakers have said Georgia has no right to Tennessee water and that they will not agree to such a resolution.

Georgia House Votes to Seek Tennessee River Access (again)

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia lawmakers are once more asking to redraw the state’s northern border in the hope of getting water from the Tennessee River.
The House of Representatives voted 171-2 on Tuesday to adopt a resolution seeking from Tennessee a strip of land leading to the river. The offer will be sent to Tennessee officials, who have laughed off similar ideas in the past.
Georgia lawmakers argue that a flawed 1818 survey misplaced the 35th parallel. If Tennessee’s southern border stretched along the parallel, as Congress decreed in 1796, Georgia could take water from the Tennessee River. No one much cared in modern times until a water dispute between Georgia, Alabama and Florida threatened metro Atlanta’s water supply.
“It’s basically our water — at least it was when it was on our land,” said Rep. Harry Geisinger, R-Roswell, who sponsored the resolution.
Under his plan, Georgia would accept the current border with the exception of a slice of land allowing for access to the Tennessee River. Tennessee leaders have so far been dismissive of the latest request.
A border change would likely require Congressional action or a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Georgia lawmakers have debated similar requests in previous years. Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue considered pursuing a lawsuit seeking to redraw the border after a federal judge ruled that Atlanta had little right to take water from the Chattahoochee River, its main water supply. That ruling has since been overturned.
Georgia leaders have floated the idea in various forms over the years. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, suggesting expanding road and rail links to Chattanooga, Tenn., in return for water access. Attorney General Sam Olens backed boosting the role of Chattanooga’s airport in return for a pipe carrying Tennessee River water to Georgia.