TCWN and TN Peer Release "STUCK IN THE MUD"
Tennessee Clean Water Network and the Tennessee office of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (TNPEER) have released the second in a series of three reports on water pollution enforcement issues in Tennessee. This second case study focuses on pollution resulting from the misuse by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) of the General Storm Water Permit for construction sites. The report highlights Oliver Creek, a tributary to the Loosahatchie River in northeast Shelby County.
Read the full report
Read the first report in the series, “Waste-case Scenario”, highlighting water pollution and TDEC’s lack of enforcement at the abandoned Smokey Mountain Smelters site in south Knox County.
From the Knoxville News-Sentinel (October 15, 2004):
Groups tackle smelter pollution
State agency says it is probing complaints
By SCOTT BARKER, [email protected]
October 15, 2004
Frustrated by what they view as foot-dragging by state regulators, members of two environmental advocacy groups slipped onto a polluted South Knox County industrial site on Thursday and partially covered a contaminated slagheap with a tarp.
The groups said the largely symbolic act - the 20-by-30-foot tarp covered less than one-tenth of the massive slagheap's crown - was designed to spur state officials to address contamination at the former Smokey Mountain Smelters in Vestal.
A spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, however, said the agency is investigating the groups' complaints while assessing the site for possible inclusion on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List.
The groups contend TDEC should at least move forward with temporary measures to keep pollutants on site.
"One thing you can do with waste piles is put a cover over them to keep the rain off," said Barry Sulkin, director of Tennessee Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
Sulkin joined three members of the Tennessee Clean Water Network - executive director Renee Hoyos, development director Diannah Miller and board member Leon Christion - in securing the royal-blue tarp to the pile of waste left over from the smelter's long-dormant aluminum smelting operations.
The groups issued a report in July complaining that contaminants from the smelter site had leeched into an unnamed tributary of Flenniken Branch, which meanders through the Mount Olive community before flowing into the Knob Creek embayment of Fort Loudoun Lake at I.C. King Park.
According to the report, based on TDEC data, the contaminants include ammonia, arsenic, lead, copper, zinc and pesticides. In 1998, state officials detected beta and gamma radiation at the site.
The groups filed a complaint with TDEC Commissioner Betsy Child during the summer.
In an Aug. 31 letter to Sulkin and Hoyos, the state's top water-quality enforcement officer, Christopher Moran, wrote that his office "will investigate the allegations regarding any water quality violations at (Smokey Mountain Smelters) and make a determination within 90 days of receiving your formal complaint."
TDEC spokeswoman Tisha Calabrese-Benton said the agency would meet the deadline.
"We are working with the EPA to analyze the site and score it so we can better determine the potential threat to the environment," Calabrese-Benton said. "We were out there last week taking samples.
"It's important for us to be timely," she continued. "It's also important for us to be thorough. We will have an answer as promised within 90 days."
The groups also said they're worried that the site isn't secure and the dilapidated smelter building could pose a danger to area children wandering inside. The Montgomery Village housing project is across the railroad tracks from the site.
"That place is a disaster waiting to happen," Hoyos said.
Calabrese-Benton agreed that the building could pose a danger, but noted that the heirs to the property have refused to claim ownership, making it difficult to hold anyone accountable for controlling access to the property.
Scott Barker may be reached at 865-342-6309.