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  • Kathy Hawes, TCWN Executive Director

Deregulating SEWAGE.

On the homepage of our great state’s General Assembly – capitol.tn.gov – you can find all sorts of information, from your own Representative’s email address to video archives of hearings. You can watch committee meetings live. You can also read about the various bills being introduced and voted upon during sessions.


But know this: You have to read the fine print. Look very closely at the amendments.


For example, SB2224 / HB2206 (Senate Sponsor Steve Southerland, House Sponsor Jason Zachary) shows a brief summary of the bill: “Water Pollution - As introduced, reduces from five to three days the amount of time within which final orders concerning water quality permitting must be published on the department of environment and conservation website.”


Well, that sounds innocuous – even helpful!


But click on the tab that says “Amendments,” and then click on the one amendment to the bill, which reads: “SA 0557 – Amendment 1-1 to SB2224.” That amendment is the opposite of innocuous. That amendment endangers public health.

If you’re not familiar with sewage treatment systems, I envy you. If you are, you know that the words “drip or spray fields” in this amendment refer to decentralized sewage systems in remote areas, wherein wastewater is applied to the land. If designed poorly, threats to water quality increase exponentially. And the smells can be noxious.


TCWN worked with experts across the state to develop this legislative summary sheet. Feel free to forward it to your friends and legislators!

Every sewage system in Tennessee should be regulated. This amendment attempts to strip TDEC of that authority. Read more in the Washington Post here.


Southern Environmental Law Center has developed a map of the hundreds of decentralized sewage systems across Tennessee.


The Tennessee Senate has already passed this – perhaps without the full knowledge of what was at stake. It is vital that our House Ag & Natural Resources Committee is fully informed, sees through the deception, and correctly votes NO on Tuesday, 3/17, when it is scheduled for a vote.

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