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TCWN releases report on TDEC’s enforcement program



For Immediate Release: April 15, 2013

Contact:   Renée Victoria Hoyos, Executive Director, 865.522.7007 x100 (o) or 865.607.6618 (c)


TCWN releases report on TDEC’s enforcement program


Knoxville, TN


Today the Tennessee Clean Water Network released the third in a series of reports on the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s water protection programs. The research shows a 75% reduction in enforcement actions taken by TDEC since 2007. This latest report analyzes the past two years of enforcement and focuses on why there has been a significant decline in enforcement actions.


Several enforcement trends remain the same:


  • High fine forgiveness continues, meaning violators pay less.
  • There is no geographic focus for enforcement actions – only half of the counties in Tennessee had enforcement actions in 2011, this dropped to a third of them in 2012, with no indication the Department is discriminatory regarding where enforcement occurs.
  • Construction activities continue to dominate the type of violators receiving enforcement – construction and development activities made up over half of all enforcement taken in the past two years.


Fine reductions remain the biggest problem. The fine assessment process is inconsistent, resulting in low fine collection up-front. The result is that Tennesseans bear the costs of pollution rather than the polluter.


 “The severe decline in enforcement of our water rules is inexplicable,” says Renée Victoria Hoyos, Executive Director of TCWN. “Allowing violators to escape proper enforcement sends the wrong message: that you can come to Tennessee, pollute our rivers and streams and receive little or no punishment.”


The report addresses a few potential reasons enforcement has declined, but points out TCWN’s own work proves there is no shortage of violations throughout the state. TCWN has initiated multiple citizen enforcement actions across the state seeking correction and penalties for water quality permit violations.

This year’s report also compares TDEC’s policies to what actually happens in enforcement orders and determines there is little consistency. What the Department does actually contradicts its written procedures.


“Over half of the mandatory fines paid to the Department are under $2000. Does this cover the cost to the state of enforcement and remediation? Or are Tennesseans paying for it?” asked Ms. Hoyos. “We are calling on TDEC Commissioner Martineau to assure his staff and the public the Department is still committed to effective enforcement. We also urge TDEC to assess fines suitable to cover the costs so it does not continue to be the burden of the taxpayer.” 




To read the report and learn more about the Tennessee Clean Water Network, go to http://tcwn.org/programs.





P. O. Box 1521    Knoxville, Tennessee 37901

office: 865.522.7007    fax: 865.525.4988    website: www.tcwn.org

Press Release_enforcment report2013.pdf27.07 KB

Tennessee Clean Water Network

625 Market St.

Knoxville, TN 37902


Mailing Address:

PO BOX 1521

Knoxville, TN 37902


Office: 865.522.7007

Fax: 865.525.4988