For Immediate Release: May 16, 2013
Sean Sarah, Sierra Club, 330 338-3740 firstname.lastname@example.org
Gregory Buppert, Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-3225 email@example.com
Casey Self, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, 865-249-7488
Stephanie Matheny, Tennessee Clean Water Network, 865-522-7007 firstname.lastname@example.org
Groups Act to Protect Endangered Species from Destructive Coal Mining in Tennessee
Groups Allege that Federal Agencies Violated Endangered Species Act in TN Mining Approvals
Nashville, TN – Today, Defenders of Wildlife, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN) and Sierra Club filed a first of its kind suit against the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service alleging that the government agencies violated the Endangered Species Act by approving mining permits for the Zeb Mountain and Davis Creek Area 5 surface mines in Tennessee. Sierra Club and its allies argue that OSM and the Service failed to fully consider the effects pollution from mining operations would have on the endangered Cumberland darter and the threatened blackside dace; two fresh water fish found primarily in the areas threatened by mining waste pollution from these sites. Specifically, the groups allege that OSM and the Fish and Wildlife Service have ignored the best science and data available that show how specific forms of mining pollution at these sites endanger the dace and darter.
“Extinction of endangered species is too high a price to pay for surface mining,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “The Office of Surface Mining failed in its duty to ensure endangered species were protected when it granted mining permits at Zeb Mountain and Davis Creek. Mining pollution from these sites clearly poses a risk to the dace and darter; these permits should have never been allowed to go forward.”
The groups contend that high levels of water conductivity created by mining pollution put the future of the blackside dace and Cumberland darter at risk. Conductivity is a measure of the ability of fresh water to carry an electric current. The higher the conductivity level in Appalachian streams, the more pollutants are in the water and the greater the threat to certain species of aquatic life. Conductivity is measured in microSiemens per centimeter (µS/cm) with a safe level for the darter and dace being less than 240 µS/cm. However, tests of the water downstream from the Zeb mountaintop removal mine site show conductivity ranging from 538 to 886 µS/cm – far above safe levels for the fish. While Davis Creek Area 5 has not yet begun operations, like all other surface coal mines in Appalachia the new Davis Creek mine is extremely likely to cause conductivity in local streams to exceed levels that are safe for dace. In fact, in 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency reviewed state mining permits in Appalachia and found that none of them took steps to prevent pollution that increases conductivity in streams.
“What is remarkable here is that the Service and OSM have all of the studies showing that high conductivity caused by coal mining harms these fish” said Greg Buppert, staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. “They’ve simply been ignoring them for years.”
Further, the groups will argue that reliance on old and outdated science to determine the safety of endangered species at or near mountaintop removal sites is arbitrary and capricious. The Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to act on the best scientific data available to insure that any action an agency takes is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any threatened or endangered species. Currently, OSM and the Service rely primarily on research completed in 1996. At that time, the effects of conductivity on fresh water fish were unknown. Empirical studies undertaken since then show a strong correlation between elevated conductivity and harm to blackside dace and Cumberland darters. Because the agencies did not take that information under consideration, the groups contend, not only is there a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act, but populations of these two species are at risk of being wiped out.
“Species like the dace and darters are totally vulnerable to destructive human activity in their watersheds, but can do nothing about it,” said Cathie Bird, a member of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment. “The very least we humans can do is to demand that permitting agencies start with the best science available, then continually update their assessments of potential harm as new data comes along.”
Mountaintop removal and other forms of surface mining have already caused a significant decrease in the dace and darter populations. Mountaintop removal is an extremely destructive form of coal mining. Mines clear-cut timber and undergrowth, blast open the earth, and destroy streams. This devastating practice poisons drinking water, lays waste to wildlife habitat, increases risk of flooding, and wipes out entire communities. Mountaintop removal operations frequently contaminate local water sources. They release toxic pollutants such as selenium and heavy metals. Communities near mountaintop removal mines experience elevated rates of serious health problems such as cancer and birth defects.
“Strip mining in Tennessee has polluted our waters to the point that native fish like blackside dace and Cumberland darters are barely holding on,” said TCWN Attorney Stephanie Matheny. “If the water is too dirty for the fish, it can’t be good for people either.”
“Our mountain waterways and aquatic ecosystems are precious resources that need to be protected for future generation,” said Rita Chadwell, Sierra Club member. “They are something for our communities and region to be proud of. I take pride in knowing that Davis Creek which runs in front of my home is special and provides a unique habitat for sensitive and rare species like the blackside dace. Davis Creek has suffered enough pollution from mining and should be left alone so the blackside dace populate can recover and my community can have a safe body of water for recreation.”
The litigation was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Defenders of Wildlife, SOCM, TCWN and Sierra Club are represented in this action by Greg Buppert from Defenders of Wildlife and Stephanie Matheny of Tennessee Clean Water Network.
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
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
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For Immediate Release March 6, 2013
Contact: Stephanie Matheny, 865-522-7007 x 102 or 865-244-5121
Yesterday, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (“TDEC”) issued the final permit for pollutant discharges from Tennessee Valley Recycling’s (“TVR”) Pulaski, TN metal scrap yard. The permit allows TVR to discharge unlimited amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”), total suspended solids, and oil and grease until September 2013, effectively rewarding the company for its chronic permit violations with a six-month compliance holiday.
“The people of Pulaski have a right to expect more from TDEC,” said Renée Victoria Hoyos, Executive Director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network (“TCWN”). “TDEC should not reward bad behavior with a free pass to pollute.”
“TDEC has no legal basis for eliminating permit limits for six months,” added TCWN Attorney Stephanie Matheny. “But, then again, TDEC had proposed to completely eliminate the limits, so the permit is not as bad as it might have been.”
The new permit retains the old limit for total suspended solids, imposes a more stringent limit for PCBs, and eliminates the zinc limit. However, while the old permit required TVR to report its PCB discharges every month, the new permit requires TVR to do so only four times per year. “Based on its own signed reports, TVR discharges PCBs much more often than four times a year. TDEC is basically saying TVR can discharge unlimited PCBs the other 361 days per year,” said Matheny.
The permit is closely related to ongoing enforcement activities. TCWN sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue TVR in August 2012 for chronic violations of PCB and solids limits. In its response to public comments, TDEC claims it had issued an enforcement order with a $65,000 penalty. But, what TDEC does not tell the public is that the order gives TVR a free pass on its PCB violations or that TVR only has to pay $16,250 of this penalty.
TDEC also notes TVR cleaned out its pond in November 2012, but fails to mention that TVR nonetheless reported a PCB violation in December 2012, and solids violations in December 2012 and January 2013. “TVR is a chronic violator, going back for many years. We need some serious enforcement, not just a slap on the hand,” noted Hoyos.
For more information, including copies of the permit, comments, and order, go to http://tcwn.org/cleanwater1.
Pulaski, TN. The Tennessee Clean Water Network (“TCWN”) filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue Tennessee Valley Recycling (“TVR”) for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act on August 20, 2012.
TVR recycles scrap metal at its Pulaski, Tennessee facility, and discharges polluted stormwater to Richland Creek just downstream from the city’s drinking water intake. This stormwater contains high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), total suspended solids (“TSS”), and zinc that exceed limits set to protect water quality and human health.
Based on a review of TVR’s discharge reports, TCWN alleges that TVR has violated its PCB limit at least 26 times since December 2010, with exceedances ranging up to 166 times the limit. “These chronic and severe violations need to stop now, either through aggressive enforcement or through revocation of the permit,” said TCWN Executive Director Renée Victoria Hoyos.
PCBs are highly toxic, persistent, and bioaccumulative. PCBs were used in electrical equipment, fluorescent light ballasts, and a variety of consumer products until they were banned in 1979. Unfortunately, many of these old products remain in circulation, and may be recycled at scrap yards like TVR’s. Once released to rivers and streams, PCBs enter the food web and accumulate in fish tissue, potentially exposing people who consume these fish to high levels of PCBs. PCBs have the potential to cause cancers and affect the immune system, nervous system, and reproductive system in humans. It has been found that elevations in blood pressure, serum triglyceride, and serum cholesterol have been reported with increasing serum levels of PCBs in humans.
“PCBs are nothing to mess around with. These are very toxic pollutants that should be kept out of our waterways,” said Ms. Hoyos.
In addition to alleging PCB violations, TCWN’s Notice of Intent cites 22 violations of the TSS limit, 13 violations of the zinc limit, and numerous violations of monitoring and reporting requirements. Each violation is subject to a civil penalty to be paid to the U.S. Treasury of up to $37,500 per day.
Unfortunately, TVR and its predecessor, Denbo Scrap Metals, have an extensive history of violating permit requirements. According to Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (“TDEC”) files, it took Denbo about a decade after it first opened – including four years after a TDEC order - to install even a settling pond. When issuing the current permit, TDEC stated TVR had committed “multiple permit infractions too numerous to list here.” In October 2006, TDEC took the extraordinary step of threatening to revoke the permit, but instead directed TVR to relocate its outfall below the city’s drinking water intake and build a new pond.
For the complete Notice Letter, click here.
For Immediate Release: July 17, 2012
Contact: Renée Victoria Hoyos – 865.522.7007 x100
Tennessee Clean Water Network settles with the City of Chattanooga over Sanitary Sewer Overflows
Chattanooga TN –
The Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN), United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) settled today with the City of Chattanooga (the City) to fix sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), particularly large volume discharges from the West Bank and East Bank outfalls, and other alleged discharge violations. To read the consent decree, click here for the consent decree and here for the appendices.
According to Renée Victoria Hoyos, TCWN’s Executive Director, “This mutual partnership between EPA, the State, TCWN and Chattanooga will help protect the health of the Tennessee River and its tributaries, and the people who use and enjoy them. We applaud the City for its commitment to environmental stewardship.”
“The Consent Decree calls for a comprehensive fix to the City’s entire sewer system, which will result in a substantial improvement in water quality over time,” said TCWN Staff Attorney Stephanie Matheny. The Consent Decree will be implemented in two phases. During the first phase – which lasts five years – the City will focus on the high priority projects (the Early Action Capital Projects listed in Appendix C) it has identified as causing the bulk of the alleged permit violations. The City will also develop and implement a Phase I sewer repair program that will rehabilitate approximately 15% of the sewershed in areas with streams polluted by pathogens typically found in sewage. These improvements are expected to eliminate discharges from the West Bank and East Bank outfalls and reduce SSOs. In the second phase, the City will develop and implement a full suite of additional plans designed to improve operation and maintenance of its sewer system.
The settlement will require the City to complete the process of bringing its combined sewer system up to current federal standards. Chattanooga’s combined sewer system – which includes most of the downtown area - provides the benefit of treating stormwater at Moccasin Bend under typical rain conditions, but also creates the potential of overwhelming the sewage system when there is heavy rain. When that happens, the City discharges partially treated – but not disinfected – combined stormwater and sewage from combined sewer outfalls to the Tennessee River and Chattanooga Creek. Under the terms of the settlement, this City will develop a Long-Term Control Plan to better manage these discharges. The Consent Decree also requires the City to address the Central Avenue and William Street CSO outfalls. These outfalls discharge to Chattanooga Creek, which is listed by TDEC as impaired for E. coli and low dissolved oxygen.
“While some might have preferred that the City separate its entire sewer system, that simply is not practical from a cost standpoint, and it is not required for water quality,” said Stephanie Matheny. “This Consent Decree recognizes that the City has made substantial investments in improving its combined sewer outfalls in recent decades, and will require the City to make the additional improvements required to fully protect our streams and rivers.”
The Consent Decree requires the City of Chattanooga to: pay a $238,200 civil penalty to the United States; implement an approximately $800,000 supplemental environmental project to restore a tributary of South Chickamauga Creek in lieu of additional federal penalties; and implement an approximately $238,200 Highland Park Green Infrastructure Project in lieu of state penalties. By electing to implement these environmental projects, the City has ensured that its residents will benefit from what would otherwise have been paid in penalties.
The public will have 30 days to review the Consent Decree. USEPA will also provide documents on its website during the public comment period. The City of Chattanooga will post all documents related to the settlement in a document repository on its website, which it will maintain throughout the life of the Consent Decree. The City will also encourage community input over time through its Wastewater Regulations and Appeals Board.
“TCWN encourages local residents to get involved and stay involved. There is a lot of work to be done, and local input is critical to ensuring it is done right,” said Renée Hoyos.
This case began in 2010 after TCWN discovered that the City had reported 32 unpermitted discharges totaling at least 319 million gallons of raw sewage mixed with stormwater from the West Bank and East Bank outfalls directly to the Tennessee River in the previous four years. TCWN also identified 489 additional SSOs totaling nearly 35 million gallons in the same time period, with a trend toward increasing numbers of SSOs over time. TCWN also found dry weather combined sewer overflows, monitoring and reporting violations, and exceedances of E. coli limits in the discharge from the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant.
As a result, on August 2, 2010, TCWN filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the City for these and other alleged permit violations and filed their suit on October 13, 2010. USEPA and TDEC then participated with TCWN and the City in the negotiations that led to this settlement.
“The problem of sanitary sewer overflows is not just a Chattanooga problem,” said Ms. Hoyos. “These problems occur throughout Tennessee and the nation. Federal funding for infrastructure improvements has declined in recent years and municipalities have struggled to pay for needed repairs and maintenance. Until we see dedicated funding to maintain our sewage treatment plants, we will continue to have contamination of our streams, rivers, lakes and communities.”
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July 12, 2012
For Immediate Release
Contact: Renée Victoria Hoyos, 865.522.7007 x100 or 865.607.6618
Mascot, TN. The Tennessee Clean Water Network (“TCWN”) lodged a proposed consent decree with Mine Road Properties, LLC for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act on July 5, 2012. Mine Road Properties, LLC owns an approximately 118-acre site in Mascot, TN that was historically used to process and store tailings from nearby zinc mines. The Mine Road site has discharged a milky-white mixture of crushed limestone laced with heavy metals into Flat Creek, a tributary to the Holston River, for decades without any regulatory controls.
Immediately upon receipt of the 60-day notice of intent to sue for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, Mine Road Properties, LLC and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (“TDEC”) worked with TCWN to create a plan to prevent polluted stormwater from reaching Flat Creek. The plan includes structures to prevent, slow, and treat runoff. Implementation of the plan will qualify the site for the required Clean Water Act permit, which will prohibit discharges that cause pollution.
TCWN is very happy with the results.
“We’ve been hearing about the site for years.” Says Renée Victoria Hoyos, Executive Director of TCWN. “I’m glad we were able to come to a swift agreement to fix the problem. Now the work begins.”
TCWN’s review of files at TDEC found that the state had inspected the site back in 2003 but had not done anything to fix this long-standing environmental problem.
“TCWN got involved because the state looked at the site and did not figure out how to regulate it,” said TCWN Staff Attorney Stephanie Matheny. “We did the research, and determined the Clean Water Act was the best vehicle to stop the ongoing pollution problem. We are confident the corrective action plan and compliance with the new discharge permit will have a significant positive impact on water quality.”
For all documents related to this suit, go to http://www.tcwn.org/cleanwater1
Hearing on Regulations to Protect Water Quality from the Dangers of Hydrofracking Concerned community groups rally to protect water quality in TennesseeTue, 2012-07-03 12:24 — tcwn_contentadmin
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sandra Goss, Executive Director, Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning (865) 522-3809
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation will hold two public hearings Tuesday, July 10, 2012 about proposed new rules regarding hydrofracking, a technique used to extract natural gas. The hearings are scheduled for 2:00 pm and 6:00 p.m. The hearings will be held at the Knoxville Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Field Office at 3711 Middlebrook Pike, Knoxville, TN 37921. The public is encouraged to attend.
Hydrofracking has gained favor among oil and gas companies because it provides access to previously unreachable natural gas pockets in shale rock in an economical manner. Pennsylvania, New York, and other states have experienced pollution of groundwater and surface water resources that is believed to be related to hydrofracking. Hydrofracking is becoming more prevalent in Tennessee, especially in Fentress, Morgan, Overton and Scott counties.
Several organizations that are concerned about negative impacts of hydrofracking on water and air quality worked together to write rules that would limit the damaging effects to ground and surface water from these practices.
“We urge Tennesseans who want to protect drinking water to support stronger regulations that protect water resources. It is important to send in comments to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation before July 20, and to speak in support of stronger regulations at the July 10 hearing,” said Ms. Goss, Executive Director of Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning
For more information about fracking and the upcoming public hearings, visit http://www.tcwn.org/frack
Tennessee Gives Free Pass to Dirty TVA Coal Plant Environmental Groups Take Legal Action to Protect Clean WaterTue, 2012-07-03 11:56 — tcwn_contentadmin
For Immediate Release: July 2, 2012
Renée Victoria Hoyos, Tennessee Clean Water Network, (865) 522.7007 x100, email@example.com
Josh Galperin, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, (865) 637.6055 X 23, firstname.lastname@example.org
Axel C. Ringe, TN Chapter Sierra Club, (865) 397-1840, email@example.com
Abigail Dillen, Earthjustice, (212) 791-1881 x8221, firstname.lastname@example.org
Abel Russ, Environmental Integrity Project, (202) 263-4453, email@example.com
Michelle Haynes, (615) 452-7500, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tennessee Gives Free Pass to Dirty TVA Coal Plant
Environmental Groups Take Legal Action to Protect Clean Water
Nashville, Tennessee – Community and environmental groups appealed a pollution permit issued to Tennessee Valley Authority ("TVA") for its Gallatin coal-fired power plant to prevent toxic discharges of heavy metals and other harmful waste byproducts of burning coal. The plant’s polluted wastewaters are dumped into unlined ponds that allow pollution to continue to harm the environment.
In addition to the toxic discharges, Gallatin’s water cooling intake system routinely kills tens of thousands of fish and other aquatic life that become trapped in the structures every year. The group is asking that Gallatin use better technology to protect fish and other aquatic life.
The appeal, filed with the Tennessee Water Quality Control Board, challenges the wastewater discharge permit from the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation (TDEC) based on its failure to include any limits at all on the discharge of toxic metals. EPA, which has recognized that coal plants are among the top dischargers of toxics in the nation, had informed TDEC that these discharge limits were required, but TDEC has refused to set them.
“The water quality of the lake affects me on a daily basis, so I am outraged that the TDEC would allow this plant to discharge toxic pollutants into Old Hickory Lake,” said Michelle Haines, who lives on Old Hickory Lake, adjacent to the Gallatin plant. “I am deeply concerned about myself, my family, our animals, and my community’s health and safety. Until TDEC takes proper action, I believe it’s too dangerous to swim, fish, or boat in the water.”
The groups also challenges TDEC’s refusal to impose any permit conditions designed to protect fish. While the Clean Water Act requires coal plants to minimize harm to fish and other aquatic life, the Gallatin Fossil Plant uses an outdated cooling system with water intake structures that suck enormous numbers of fish into the works of the coal plant and kills them.
“Gallatin has polluted Tennessee’s water since the 1950’s. In all that time, TDEC has never seen fit to require modern pollution controls,” said Josh Galperin, with Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “While the best way for TVA to stop this pollution is to retire the Gallatin plant and move away from burning dirty coal, they are unfortunately poised to spend nearly $1 billion to extend Gallatin’s life and actually increase the water pollution in this process. TDEC must act expeditiously to enforce strict pollution limits on the toxics this old coal plant dumps into the Cumberland River every day.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority (“TVA”) historically has operated some of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the country. After years of litigation, TVA recently entered into a settlement that requires installation of modern air pollution controls, but the utility has not yet addressed its major water pollution and waste problems.
“TVA has been polluting water in Tennessee for too long.” said Renée Victoria Hoyos, Executive Director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network. “We need limits on the amount of heavy metals and other pollutants that this old coal plant can dump into the Cumberland River every day. TDEC can set these limits if they want to and we are asking that they do.”
Almost four years ago, its Kingston Fossil Plant spilled over one billion gallons of toxic coal ash, killing nearby fish and wildlife and causing a mudflow wave of water and ash that covered 12 homes. Cleanup of that spill continues today. Weeks later, TVA’s Widows Creek Plant spilled over 10,000 tons of waste into in the Tennessee River in Alabama.
“Even TVA has promised that it is going to stop using these dangerous impoundments for their ash and wastewater, but TDEC has given them a permit that lets them go on with business as usual for another five years,” said Axel C. Ringe, Vice Conservation Chair of the Tennessee Chapter Sierra Club.
“TVA is doing nothing to reduce pollution and nothing to stop daily fish kills, and TDEC giving that do-nothing program its stamp of approval,” said Earthjustice attorney Abigail Dillen. “If TVA wants to keep operating this old plant into the 21st century, it needs to invest in 21st pollution controls.”
Earthjustice represents the Tennessee Clean Water Network, the Sierra Club and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in the case.
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NASHVILLE, TN – MAY 15, 2012 - In a hostile action seeking to prevent a citizen suit by the Tennessee Clean Water Network (“TCWN”) under the federal Clean Water Act, the State of Tennessee filed a complaint in Davidson County Chancery Court against the Teknor Apex Tennessee Company just hours before TCWN could file its own lawsuit in federal court. Teknor Apex was previously represented by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (“TDEC”) Commissioner Robert Martineau when he was in private practice. “Commissioner Martineau has a clear conflict of interest in this case, and we can only hope the filing of this lawsuit is not just a brazen attempt to insulate a former client from effective enforcement,” TCWN Executive Director Renée Victoria Hoyos said.
“The State of Tennessee’s complaint comes after many years of inaction and complicity by TDEC in allowing Teknor Apex to rack up literally hundreds of days of violation of the Clean Water Act with the equivalent of a traffic ticket and a few written warnings,” Hoyos said. “Yet, TDEC’s own court filing shows Teknor Apex routinely exceeds permit limits on Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (“DEHP”), a toxic pollutant that is a potential endocrine disruptor, along with other pollutants,” she said.
According to TCWN records, TDEC issued an agreed order negotiated with the company in 2005 imposing a meager $3,250 in penalties. That order required no mitigation for environmental harm, and simply restated that the company had to comply with the law without requiring it to take any specific action to bring itself into compliance. Teknor Apex has continued to violate its permit nearly every month, and TDEC has issued two notices of violation (“NOVs”) listing multiple pages of these violations, but has issued no further penalty and has done nothing to stop the company from polluting Tennessee waters. One of these NOVs was issued on March 29, 2011, and was signed by TDEC’s Division of Water Pollution Control’s Manager of Compliance and Enforcement. Teknor Apex also reported a significant spill to TDEC in November 2010, which resulted in no penalty or requirement for corrective action by TDEC. The 2011 NOV did not mention the spill, which had occurred only four months earlier.
While at TDEC on April 17, 2012, TCWN Staff Attorney Stephanie Matheny informed TDEC’s pretreatment program coordinator of a number of violations Teknor Apex had reported regarding its indirect discharges to the Brownsville Energy Company. TCWN did not include these violations in its notice letter, and instead asked TDEC to take action. Tennessee did not include these violations in its complaint.
Tennessee also chose to file its case in state court, a maneuver that reduces the company’s potential liability from $37,500 per day per violation to $10,000. TDEC operated in secret, failing to notify TCWN prior to taking this action even though it was clearly TCWN’s notice letter that spurred the State’s action. TDEC also chose to bypass the opportunity for public notice afforded by an administrative penalty action before its Water Quality Control Board. To TCWN’s knowledge, the State has not previously filed such a complaint directly in state court.
TCWN has issued numerous 60-day notices in the past five years, but this is the first time TDEC has tried to preclude a TCWN lawsuit by filing a state court case. “This is a very unusual action for the State to take,” Matheny said, “TCWN has not seen it before.”
“We hope this is not just a sweetheart deal for a former client of Commissioner Martineau,” Hoyos said. “Prior to TCWN’s notice letter, TDEC allowed Teknor Apex to routinely violate the Clean Water Act for years with little more than a slap on the hand. Even now, TDEC has not sought to fully enforce the Act.”
The Clean Water Act allows citizens to file suit in federal court and obtain injunctive relief, civil penalties to be paid to the federal government of up to $37,500 per day per violation, and costs and fees of litigation. However, citizens first have to file a notice letter with the violator, the State, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and then wait 60 days before filing suit, giving the agencies a final chance to diligently enforce the law. “We sent our notice letter because TDEC did not do its job,” Matheny said, “even though it was well aware of a pattern of serious violations. The State should not continue its secret backroom negotiations to give this chronic violator a favorable settlement.”
Current TDEC Commissioner Robert Martineau was a partner with Waller, Lansden, Dortch & Davis, LLP, prior to being appointed to his current position by TN Governor Bill Haslam. Waller Lansden has long represented Teknor Apex (previously called the Haywood Company). On January 5, 2009 – just two years before being sworn in as TDEC Commissioner - Martineau filed an appeal of a TDEC compliance order related to air violations on behalf of his then-client, Teknor Apex. Martineau’s appeal claimed the penalties TDEC had imposed in that air compliance order were “excessive.”
Teknor Apex discharges DEHP to a tributary to Little Nixon Creek, which flows through an environmental justice community. “This community has been negatively affected for years by the polluted discharges coming from Teknor Apex, and TDEC has allowed that to happen. TDEC’s history of enforcement is so weak that this suit in state court does not give us much reason to hope that the problem will finally be solved.” Says Hoyos.
To read TCWN’s report on TDEC’s enforcement program, click here.
Renée Victoria Hoyos 865.522.7007 x 100 or 865.607.6618 (cell)
For Immediate Release: April 16, 2012
Contact: Renée Victoria Hoyos – 865.522.7007 x100
Tennessee Clean Water Network settles with the City of Memphis over Sanitary Sewer Overflows
Memphis TN –
The Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN), United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) settled today with the City of Memphis (the City) to fix sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and foam discharges.
“We are very pleased with the results of the negotiation,” said Renée Victoria Hoyos, Executive Director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network. “All parties worked hard to create a settlement that was fair that will lead to elimination of SSOs, better reporting and less floating foam.”
Through a series of file reviews and citizen complaints, TCWN discovered that the City reported 1,170 sewer overflows in a five year period. Local kayakers contacted TCWN with photos complaining of foam coming from the M.C. Stiles Sewage Treatment Plant floating down the Mississippi River. As a result, in December 2009 the TCWN filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the City for sanitary sewer overflows, visible floating foam, and other permit violations.
On Day 60, The USEPA and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation filed an enforcement action against the City of Memphis. TCWN intervened in the case to ensure that there was a citizen activist group at the table.
Under terms of the agreement the City of Memphis will assess 10% of the sewer system each year. In year 1, the City will concentrate on areas near Cypress and Cane Creeks where the system is the oldest and the creeks impaired for pathogens. In year 2, the City will concentrate on the Lick Creek and close-in areas due to basement backups. The City has also committed to three large infrastructure projects, including the Wolf River Interceptor where a failure there could cause a major SSO to the Wolf River.
The settlement will also require the City to have written policies and procedures for operation and maintenance activities.
One major problem identified in the consent decree was the disposal of fats, oil and grease (FOG) to the sewer system. The City has taken proactive measures to educate the public about FOG with billboards and other public education tools.
TCWN has expressed disappointment, though, about the City’s refusal to do a Supplemental Environmental Project. These projects can be performed in lieu of fines paid to the federal government and can assist communities most impacted by sewer overflows. Projects can range from low-interest loans to homeowners for repairs to lateral sewer lines or property acquisition to increase parkland. The City instead chose to pay a fine of $645,000 to the Department of Justice.
The City did agree to perform a “color study” to determine the source of color that was causing a color contrast into the Mississippi River from the M.C. Stiles Plant and partial GIS mapping of the sewer system. The City prefers to employ the use of a “Sewer Bible” - a paper copy of the sewer system that employees use to manually update repairs and maintenance. Cities of comparable size and smaller have moved to complete GIS mapping of the system to analyze their sewer system.
The public will have 30 days to review the consent decree. The City of Memphis will post all documents related to the settlement in a document repository on the City of Memphis website and copies will be available at the Central Library. If you see an SSO, please report it immediately to the Department of Public Works (901) 576-6742.
“The problem of sanitary sewer overflows is not just a Memphis problem,” said Ms. Hoyos. “These problems occur throughout Tennessee and the nation. Federal funding for infrastructure improvements has declined in recent years and municipalities are squeamish to raise fees to pay for needed repairs and maintenance. Until we see dedicated funding to maintain our sewage treatment plants, we will continue to have contamination of our streams, rivers, lakes and communities.”
March 19, 2012
For Immediate Release
Contact: Renée Victoria Hoyos, 865.522.7007 x100 or 865.607.6618
Brownsville, TN. The Tennessee Clean Water Network (“TCWN”) filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue Teknor Apex Tennessee Company Haywood Plant (Teknor Apex) for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act on March 16, 2012.
Teknor Apex is a privately held company that uses bis-(ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) in the production of vinyl products such as garden hoses. Phthalates are potentially potent endocrine disrupting chemicals. Teknor Apex has discharged as much as 4500% of the allowable limits for phthalates to Little Nixon Creek in the Forked Deer – South Fork Watershed. Teknor Apex’s permit imposes limits on total suspended solids, oil and grease, biological oxygen demand, and phthalate esters, all of which the company routinely violates. In total, Teknor Apex has violated its permit at least 184 times in the past 5 years, roughly three times per month.
“This is one of the worst examples of corporate irresponsibility we have seen,” explained TCWN Executive Director Renée Hoyos. “Teknor Apex seems very proud of its environmental reputation, but quite frankly they have a lousy record of environmental compliance. It will be a pleasure to fix this problem.”
According to its website, “Teknor Apex Company prides itself on its dedication and commitment to environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions.”
“I guess one solution is to illegally dump their waste in the creek.” Mused Ms. Hoyos. “TDEC’s woeful enforcement program has allowed them to get away with permit violations for years.”
TCWN’s review of files at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (“TDEC”) found that TDEC issued a Director’s Order in 2005, followed up with two notices of violation, which are largely fix-it tickets, in July 2008 and March 2011. TDEC did a compliance inspection in 2006 finding “satisfactory ratings for all areas except for operating and maintenance and permit compliance.” TCWN does not consider this robust enforcement.
For the complete Notice Letter, click here.
(New Orleans, LA)— Today environmental groups challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) refusal to address a critical pollution problem it has acknowledged for decades.
The two legal actions filed today seek action from the agency on nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, which stimulates excessive growth of algae, kick-starting a biological process that severely depletes oxygen levels in aquatic ecosystems and chokes marine life. An enormous example of this problem is the “Dead Zone” that forms in the Gulf of Mexico in the summer. In addition, toxic algae blooms result in fish kills, the death of livestock and pets, and damage to drinking water supplies. Addressing Dead Zone pollution is thus necessary to restore health to the Gulf of Mexico and upstream waters of the Mississippi River Basin.
“The ecology and economy of the Gulf of Mexico have paid the price for EPA’s endless dithering about Dead Zone pollution,” said Matt Rota, Director of Science and Water Policy with the non-profit Gulf Restoration Network. “The most meaningful action the EPA can take is to set limits on the amount of these pollutants allowed in the Mississippi River watershed so that the fish and the fisheries can recover.”
Members of the Mississippi River Collaborative, represented by the Natural Resources Defense Council, are challenging EPA’s denial of a 2008 petition to the agency asking EPA to establish quantifiable standards and cleanup plans for Dead Zone pollution. Separately, several conservation groups are seeking to compel EPA to finally respond to an even older petition – a 2007 request that EPA modernize its decades-old pollution standards for sewage treatment plants and include Dead Zone pollution in those standards.
“Decisive EPA action on Dead Zone pollutants is a decade overdue,” said Glynnis Collins, Executive Director of Illinois-based Prairie Rivers Network. “Illinois is the biggest contributor of agricultural pollution that creates this yearly crisis. With little action coming from the state, we clearly need an external push to be a more responsible neighbor."
When scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium completed their annual measurement of the 2011 Gulf Dead Zone, it measured 6,765 square miles - larger than the state of Connecticut—and it is growing, having doubled in size since 1985. In the Gulf, the pollution harms the $2.8 billion fishing industry.
The unrelenting problem of excess nitrogen and phosphorous has also proven costly upstream. For example, seasonally the Raccoon and the Des Moines Rivers in Iowa carry excessive levels of nitrates, requiring special treatment before the water is safe enough for Des Moines-area residents to drink.
The EPA called on states in 1998 to adopt specific limits on nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and promised to enact its own limits if states had not complied by 2003. Every state along the Mississippi River ignored that deadline, and so far, only Wisconsin and Minnesota have taken effective action on their state’s contributions to the problem.
EPA’s continued lack of leadership at a federal level is a serious problem because the Mississippi River flows through or forms the border of 10 states, no one of which can act independently to fully protect the River. Only meaningful federal action by the EPA can unify states behind solutions that match the size of the problem at hand.
While residents up and down the river continue to wait for EPA to accept its leadership responsibility, inland water pollution problems have multiplied while the Dead Zone makes its annual appearance as a great blemish on America’s record of commitment to clean water.
“Don’t think for a minute that the Tennessee River and its tributaries’ have no effect on nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River.” Says Renée Victoria Hoyos, Executive Director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network. “The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has been woeful about requiring any meaningful limits in its permits of sewage treatment plants. Without federal guidance, TDEC will continue to allow nutrient pollution to flow down on our southern states.”
# # #
The Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) is a network of environmental, social justice, and citizens' groups and individuals committed to restoring the Gulf of Mexico to an ecologically and biologically sustainable condition. www.healthygulf.org
Prairie Rivers Network, Illinois’ statewide leader in river protection, conservation, and restoration, works for clean water, healthy rivers, and an engaged public. http://prairierivers.org/
The Natural Resource Defense Council is the nation's most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.3 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals. www.nrdc.org
The Mississippi River Collaborative is a partnership of environmental organizations and legal centers from states bordering the Mississippi River as well as regional and national groups working on issues affecting the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The Collaborative harnesses the resources and expertise of its diverse organizations to comprehensively reduce pollution entering the Mississippi River as well as the Gulf of Mexico. www.msrivercollab.org
The Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN) empowers Tennesseans to exercise their right to clean water and healthy communities by fostering civic engagement, building partnerships and advancing and when necessary, enforcing water policy for a sustainable future. www.tcwn.org
September 30, 2011
For Immediate Release
Contact: Renée Victoria Hoyos, 865.522.7007 x100 or 865.607.6618
Mascot, TN. The Tennessee Clean Water Network (“TCWN”) filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue Mine Road Properties, LLC for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act on September 27, 2011.
Mine Road Properties, LLC whose registered agent and manager is Oliver Smith, III, owns an approximately 118-acre site in Mascot, TN that was once used for the processing of zinc tailings. Vast tailings ponds remain on the site creating a moonscape that can be seen from Google Earth. As a result, the site discharges milky-white stormwater to Flat Creek every time it rains. The white color comes from the crushed limestone that is left over from historic zinc processing at the former Mascot Mill across Flat Creek. This limestone is laced with arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, and zinc.
TCWN wants to the property owner to keep the tailings contained on site or remove them completely and dispose of them properly.
“Our goal is to get the place cleaned up – or at least to get some effective controls on the runoff. The photos are really compelling. They look like reverse negatives. The water is ghostly white. The dangerous pollution is the part you can’t see – the arsenic and the lead,” explained TCWN Executive Direction Renée Victoria Hoyos.
TCWN’s review of files at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (“TDEC”) found that TDEC inspected the site back in 2003 but has not done anything in the last eight years to address this egregious environmental problem.
“These tailings ponds are visible from satellite images, appear on the topo maps of the area, and are well-known to local residents. This is not a hidden problem: you can see the pollution from the Mascot Road bridge. The time has long past to get this site under control,” said TCWN Staff Attorney Stephanie Matheny. “Every time it rains more than just a sprinkle, the site discharges pollutants illegally.”
For the complete Notice Letter and photographs, click here.
March 29, 2011
For Immediate Release
Contact: Penny Behling, 865.742.4306 or Renée Victoria Hoyos, 865.522.7007 x100
Memphis, TN - Teams are registering now for the first of an annual event that always makes a splash!
Registration for the inaugural Duncan-Williams Dragon Boat Races has officially opened. The event will be Saturday, September 24, 2011, at Mud Island River Park. Top prizes will be awarded, but the real winners are the beneficiaries of the event – the Tennessee Clean Water Network. Register online at www.memphis.racedragonboats.com.
Dating back more than 2,300 years, the most fun, unique cultural event featuring adrenaline-pumping action, dragon boat racing grows in worldwide popularity each year, and is the eighth fastest growing water sport. Teams rave about the excitement, friendly competition and community spirit surrounding the sport. Teams of 20 paddlers, a drummer and steersperson race in authentic 46-foot long dragon boats. All ages, skill levels and physiques can participate, making it the ultimate team building sport, requiring synchronicity and finesse, more than power to win. Off the water, teams compete to raise the most pledges for Tennessee Clean Water Network.
Memphis-based Duncan-Williams is the event’s Title sponsor. The diverse opportunities for team building, a healthy and positive way to engage employees and give back to the community appealed to the company.
Each team will get an on-water practice session with a trained coach the week prior to race day and compete in at least two heats on Saturday, September 24, 2011. Teams advancing to the Final Round will race for the title of Grand Champion. More information is online at www.memphis.racedragonboats.com, or e-mail email@example.com. Call 877-580-RACE (7223).
Knoxville, TN - January 31, 2011
Today federal district Judge Thomas Phillips entered a consent decree resolving a citizen suit brought by the Tennessee Clean Water Network against local developer David Trantanella. The lawsuit alleged that Mr. Trantanella had violated the Clean Water Act over the course of more than five years by discharging excessively muddy water from the 26-acre Casa Bella subdivision in East Knox County.
The Consent Decree imposes a numeric limit on turbidity. “This is the first construction site in Tennessee to have to comply with a numeric limit,” said TCWN Staff Attorney Stephanie Matheny. “Having a number makes it clear to everyone – including the developer – what is required. The current permits basically say ‘don’t discharge too much sediment’ – that standard is really hard to enforce.”
Construction sites are a major cause of water pollution in Knox County. Huge amounts of mud can be released from construction sites unless developers are diligent about their stormwater controls. Too much mud in a stream transports chemicals, harms fish and aquatic life, creates flooding and damages private property.
“We are pleased that Mr. Trantanella has agreed to get his site under control and work to keep it that way,” said TCWN Executive Director Renée Victoria Hoyos.
“We want to put other Knox County developers on notice: the Tennessee Clean Water Network may be watching your sites,” continued Ms. Hoyos. “The time for lax compliance is over. If your site is polluting streams or harming downstream landowners, you need to clean up or you may be hearing from us, too.”
Under the Consent Decree, Mr. Trantanella will also pay $7,500 as a supplemental environmental project in lieu of a penalty to the federal government. These funds will go to Conservation Fisheries, Inc to support reintroduction of native, non-game fish species in the Holston River watershed.
To see the consent decree and other document related to the case, click here. .
For Immediate Release: October 13, 2010
Contact: Renée Victoria Hoyos 865.522.7007 x100 or cell 865.607.6618
Tennessee Clean Water Network sues the City of Chattanooga for violations of the Clean Water Act from Moccasin Bend Sewage Treatment Plant
Location – Chattanooga, TN
On August 2, 2010, the Tennessee Clean Water Network issued a 60-day notice of intent to sue the City of Chattanooga for violating its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant and Combined Sewer System by unpermitted discharges by its West and East Bank Outfalls; unpermitted Sanitary Sewer Overflows; exceedances of the maximum E. coli limit; and monitoring and reporting violations.
On October 13, 2010 TCWN followed up on the notice and filed suit in federal court.
The suit alleges that from January 2006 – June 2010, the City illegally discharged 319 million gallons of untreated sewage. Untreated sewage can contain viruses, pathogens and toxic chemicals that can harm human and aquatic health.
“Our biggest concern is the unauthorized discharge of sewage from the west and east bank outfalls. These outfalls have put millions of gallons of raw sewage directly into the Tennessee River,” Says Renée Victoria Hoyos, Executive Director of TCWN. “Many communities downstream draw their drinking water from the Tennessee River. It is our biggest priority to work with the City to fix these overflows as soon as possible.”
The suit claims that in the same time period, the City had 489 sanitary sewer overflows that dumped nearly 35 million gallons of raw sewage into nearby creeks, road, business and private residences.
“If you see any water coming from a manhole, stay away from it,” caution’s TCWN’s Executive Director. “This is untreated sewage that may carry viruses, pathogens and toxic chemicals. Do not let children or pet play in or around puddles that are near these manholes. Try not to drive through them if you can. Raw sewage can be a human health hazard.”
“We are confident that we can work with the City to achieve a solution that will clean up these sewer overflows. We have worked well with other cities on similar issues and are looking forward to assisting the City in any way we can.” Says TCWN’s Executive Director. “To be fair, if the State had stepped in years ago and required that the City fix this problem, we would not be here today.”The Tennessee Clean Water Network has been very critical of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s enforcement program. In a report release earlier this year TCWN described the program as woeful.
“In 2008, TDEC completed just 204 enforcement actions against polluters statewide. So far in 2010, the number of enforcement actions has dropped to 135 statewide. Without robust enforcement, people like the residents of Chattanooga have to live with pollution that can harm their health. While we understand that enforcement may be unpopular in some circles, putting communities at risk for waterborne disease is no option,” says TCWN’s Executive Director, Renée Victoria Hoyos. “The Clean Water Act gives citizen’s the right to sue and that is what we have had to do. These violations have been polluting Chattanooga’s streams and rivers for many years and they need to stop.”
TCWN has had success in a similar citizen suit. In 2004, TCWN filed suit against the Knoxville Utility Board that was settled after the United States Environmental Protection Agency intervened which resulted in a consent order. KUB has worked hard to comply with the order and has dramatically reduced their sanitary sewer overflows.
Untreated sewage can harbor pathogens, bacteria and chemicals that are unsafe. A recent Emory University study indicates that combined sewer overflow systems attract the mosquito responsible for the West Nile Virus. To read the abstract of this study, click here.
To see the complaint and the notice letter, go to http://www.tcwn.org/cleanwater1
To read the TCWN Enforcement Report, go to http://www.tcwn.org/node/119
For immediate release
Knoxville, Tenn. – Tennessee gubernatorial candidates have submitted responses to six environment-related questions posed by social and environmental justice organizations in the state. Tennessee Clean Water Network, Tennessee Environmental Council, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, and the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club jointly created and sent questionnaires to the two candidates for Governor of Tennessee. Responses to the broad range of questions were received Friday. To view their responses, visit http://tcwn.org/magubquestion or http://www.socm.org/.
The questionnaire focused on a range of environmental issues from energy efficiency to what qualifies one to head the state environmental agency. The six questions were:
- What specific experience, expertise and education requirements would you use as criteria for selecting the new Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation?
- Municipal and state-backed models exist for public sector green jobs weatherization initiatives with innovative financing measures and cross-sector coordination (government, private investors, community, labor, businesses, etc.). How would you support a large-scale initiative in TN as a strategy to generate much-needed jobs, reduce peak demand for energy, provide a pipeline for our young people to stay in the state while protecting green spaces and agricultural lands in Tennessee?
- Almost half of Tennessee is in farmland, and agriculture provides over 200,000 jobs. Yet Tennessee loses over 42,000 acres of farmland each year to residential, commercial, and industrial development. What proactive measures would you take to improve the viability of Tennessee's farms?
- What economic development incentives do you support to make Tennessee more competitive in the recruitment of renewable energy and energy efficiency manufacturing industries?
- The state is required to establish water quality rules and standards no less stringent than those established by the federal government. Recognizing Tennessee’s diverse and unique environment, on what terms do you support water quality protections greater than the minimum established by the EPA?
- As Governor, what steps would you take to support efforts to reduce the amount of water and coal TVA uses to make electricity by investing more in solar, wind, energy efficiency and other water saving energy technologies?
TEC educates and advocates for the conservation and improvement of Tennessee’s environment, communities and public health.
SOCM is a member-run organization that encourages civic involvement and collective action so that the people of Tennessee have a greater voice in determining their future. The mission of SOCM is to empower Tennesseans to protect, defend, and improve the quality of life in their communities across the state. SOCM is working for social, economic, and environmental justice for all. We are committed to the journey of becoming an anti-racist organization. Recognizing our interdependence, SOCM is committed to overcoming social and institutional racism and embracing our diverse cultures.
TCWN’s mission is to organize Tennesseans to claim our right to clean water and healthy communities by fostering civic engagement, building coalitions and advancing water policy for a sustainable future.
The TN Chapter of the Sierra Club works to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources;to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives
# # #
PRESS CONFERENCE: AUGUST 10, 2010 10:00 A.M. CHATTANOOGA PIER
Location – Chattanooga, TN
On August 2, 2010, the Tennessee Clean Water Network issued a 60-day notice of intent to sue to the City of Chattanooga for violating its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant and Combined Sewer System by unpermitted discharges by its West and East Bank Tide Gates; unpermitted Sewer Overflows; exceedances of the maximum E. coli limit; and monitoring and reporting violations.
“The hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage going into Chattanooga Creek and the Tennessee River are staggering. Just this weekend there was a spill that killed thousands of fish.” Said Renée Victoria Hoyos, Executive Director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network. “Chattanooga prides itself on being a green city and they have made great strides in sustainability but attention must be paid to the failing sewer system.”
The notice specifically sites these violations from January 2006 – June 2010:
• 32 discharges totally 319,000,000 gallons of raw sewage to the Tennessee River from the West and East Bank Combined Sewer System outfalls;
• 489 sewer overflows totaling 35,000,000 gallons of raw sewage to streams, streets and private property in Chattanooga;
• 36 discharges totaling 156,000,000 gallons of raw sewage to Chattanooga Creek. Sixty-one thousand gallons were discharged in the first 6 months of 2010.
“We’ve worked out solutions to similar problems with KUB and we are willing to work out a solution so that the people of Chattanooga can enjoy clean water in their rivers and streams,” said Ms. Hoyos. “Though we understand that the current City Administration is working on these problems, recent overflows convince us that current efforts to control this problem are not working. We will not wait any longer.”
TCWN has had success in a similar citizen suit. In 2004, TCWN filed suit against the Knoxville Utility Board that was settled after the United States Environmental Protection Agency intervened which resulted in a consent order. KUB has worked hard to comply with the order and has reduced their sewer overflows considerably.
Untreated sewage can harbor pathogens, bacteria and chemicals that are unsafe. A recent Emory University study indicates that combined sewer overflow systems attract the mosquito responsible for the West Nile Virus. To read the abstract of this study, click here.
If you see a manhole spewing liquid stay clear of that water, wash down your vehicle and do not let children or pets play in that water.
To see the 60-day notice and photos, go to http://www.tcwn.org/cleanwater1
Gubernatorial candidtates Bill Haslam and Mike McWherter responded to the environmental issues questionnaire submitted by us, SOCM, TEC and the TN Chapter of the Sierra Club. Click on the documents below to check out the responses.
Howard Switzer, Green Party candidtate for Governor, also responded.
|McWherter Responses 9-17-10.pdf||26.98 KB|
|Howard Switzer responses.pdf||13.56 KB|
|Haslam Questionnaire Responses 9-17-10.pdf||118.81 KB|
July 8, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Renée Victoria Hoyos, Executive Director, 865.522.7007 x100
Call for Entries: Wilma Dykeman Prize for Essay Writing 2010
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.— Do you have a favorite story about a summer trip to the lake? How about fond memories of lazily floating down a river? Is there a Tennessee stream that inspires the writer within?
If so, then put pen to paper (or finger to key) and submit an essay to the Wilma Dykeman Prize for Essay Writing 2010. All submissions must be received by August 2, 2010. Essays must be focused on Tennessee waters or general water topics impacting Tennessee and should be inspired by the works of Wilma Dykeman. Guidelines are available here or by calling TCWN at 865-522-7007.
Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN) sponsors an annual essay contest with prizes for essays about Tennessee waterways. The prizes are awarded in honor of the late Wilma Dykeman, the 2007 recipient of TCWN’s Bill Russell River Hero Award.
“We are pleased to hold this contest in memory of Wilma Dykeman, an admired and inspirational writer who worked tirelessly to protect the French Broad River,” said Janet King, TCWN Board member and Treasurer. “Tennessee’s waters are so important to so many residents and visitors alike.”
Ms. Dykeman’s legacy includes writing 16 books, including The French Broad and The Tall Woman; being named Tennessee Conservation Writer of the Year; holding the honorary title of Tennessee State Historian; and leaving a love of nature and environmental stewardship and education for future generations.
One of Ms. Dykeman’s most notable achievements was her role in designating the French Broad River as an American Heritage River in the 1990s. Ms. Dykeman devoted much energy and passion to convincing leaders in North Carolina and Tennessee of the river’s worthiness for that designation and the benefits it would bring.
The French Broad (1955) recounts the history, legend, biography, sociology and economics of a mountain region that draws its life and ways from this river and its tributaries. The work, her first, won the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Trophy in 1955. The French Broad was groundbreaking when published and has never been out of print. It inspired stewardship of the French Broad River, whose water quality has since vastly improved.
Ms. Dykeman passed away at the age of 86 on December 22, 2006, leaving a legacy of environmental stewardship and education for future generations along the French Broad River.
Tennessee Clean Water Network’s Executive Director, Renée Victoria Hoyos, asked Mayor Haslam to ask the University of Tennessee to clean up their site that is polluting the Tennessee River with sediments from a construction site.
“The University of Tennessee is turning the Tennessee River into a big orange river of mud,” says Ms. Hoyos. “We’ve been watching that site for months and it’s not getting much better. I ask that Mayor Haslam use his position as Mayor of Knoxville to ask UT to fix the site so it does not pollute the Tennessee River”
To see the full press release, click here.
To read more about the site and TCWN's work on this problem, click here.
|Press Release_enforcment report_knoxville.doc||39.5 KB|
April 14, 2010 - TCWN released a report on the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's (TDEC) enforcement program through the Division of Water Pollution Control. This report dispels the myths at the Tennessee State Legislature that TDEC over enforces and targets agriculture.
Today the Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN) releases the first in a series of reports on the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s (TDEC) water protection programs. The first report focuses on TDEC’s enforcement program. Using data from 2008 enforcement actions found on TDEC’s website, TCWN found the following.Of all enforcement actions for violations of water quality:
• 73% were taken against pollution activities associated with development
• 62% of enforcement actions were taken for minor permit violations not associated with a pollution event.
• Only 2% of enforcement actions were against the farming community but not for farming activities. They were for development activities on farm land and an industrial farm operating without a permit.
• 65% of fines were under $2,000.
• Most enforcement actions occur in or around TDEC field offices
To read the report, click here.
|Press Release_enforcment report.pdf||40.99 KB|
TCWN announces the winners of the Wilma Dykeman Prize for Essay Writing. The two winners are Leigh Stanfield of Soddy Daisy, TN for the prize in the 17 and under category and Arthur Stewart of Lenior City, TN for the prize in the 18 and over category. "I am grateful to be a part of honoring Ms. Dykeman's memory and works, and this year's contest entries were excellent.” Said, Janet King, Board member of TCWN. “The winners' essays not only reflect Ms. Dykeman's love of our natural resources, specifically water, but the writers also deserve recognition for their research and creativity. I applaud TCWN's commitment to sponsorship of this event."To learn more go to: http://www.tcwn.org/dykeman
|Press Release - Dykeman Winners.pdf||28.63 KB|
Press Release: TCWN files Federal Citizen Suit for Clean Water Act Violations against David Trantanella at the Casa Bella Subdivision in Knoxville (12/14/09). The Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN) filed suit on December 14, 2009 in Federal Court against Mr. David Trantanella for violations of the Clean Water Act at the Casa Bella Subdivision construction site in east Knox County. The complaint charges that water quality violations have continued despite the notice of intent to sue TCWN sent October 2, 2009. To read the full notice, click here
|Press Release (PDF)||35.71 KB|
The Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN) filed notice of intent to sue in the Western District Federal Court against the City of Memphis for violations of the Clean Water Act at the Maynard C. Styles Sewage Treatment Plant. The notice outlines 1,170 sanitary sewer overflows in 5 years, 18,000,000 gallons of raw sewage discharged into Shelby County streams and the Mississippi River. To read the full notice, click here
|Press Release (PDF)||19.6 KB|
The Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN) filed suit today in Federal Court against Babelay Farm, LLC, Clear Creek, Construction, LLC, Sharp Contracting, Inc., The Legends at Washington Pike, LLC, And Hathaway Construction Co., Inc. for violations of the Clean Water Act at the Legends at Washington Pike Subdivision construction site in east Knox County. The complaint charges that water quality violations have continued despite the notice of intent to sue TCWN sent July 29, 2009. To read the complaint, click here
|Press Release - lawsuit legends (PDF)||35.54 KB|
Researchers from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium on Monday July 27, 2009 reported on the size of the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. This summer it is 3,000 square miles, an area larger than the State of Delaware. The Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico is an area where there is not enough oxygen in the water to support marine life. It forms every summer, caused by high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution coming from the Mississippi River watershed. The nitrogen and phosphorus stimulate excessive growth of algae; when this algae dies, its decomposition uses up much of the oxygen in the water, which chokes marine life. The pollution comes from chemical fertilizer that runs off of farm fields, sewage treatment plants, and polluted runoff from cities. The pollution sources are along the entire length of the Mississippi River.
|press release - deadzone (PDF)||385.43 KB|
Today the Tennessee Clean Water Network and 2 local residents filed a 60-Day notice of intent to sue in Federal Court against the developers of the Legends at Washington Pike Subdivision in northeast Knox County, Tennessee. The named defendants are Victor Jernigan, Jeff McBride (Babelay Farm, LLC, Babelay Farm II, LLC, and Clear Creek Construction, LLC), The Legends at Washington Pike, LLC, James Lee Sharp (Sharp Contracting, Inc) and David Hathaway (Hathaway Construction, LLC). The Network has documented hundreds of days of violation of the Federal Clean Water Act at the site over the past four months, including dozens of water quality violations. To see photos and the 60-day notice, click here.
|Press Release - developers on notice (PDF)||38.31 KB|
At the start of the 2009 Tennessee Legislative Session the Tennessee Clean Water Network was actively watching and working against 14 bills with the potential to negatively impact our state's waters. Now at the conclusion of this session only 1 bad bill was passed.
To read more about the status of 2009 Tennessee State Legislature's water bills click here.
|Press Release - Legislative Conclusion (PDF)||36.11 KB|
Tuesday June 2, 2009 residents of Crossville gathered at The Palace Theater to participate in a hearing on the disposal of 5.4 million cubic yards of coal fly ash from the Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant in a nearby abandoned quarry. Proponents of the project from Smith Mountain Solutions, LLC were granted unlimited speaking time while the public was given three minutes each to express concerns. The third resident to speak, Margie Buxbaum was forcible removed from the lectern by police for speaking one minute over her time. She was detained behind a curtained door and released minutes later to applause.
To see photos of the evening, click here.
|Ms. Buxbaum's testimony (PDF)||299.17 KB|
Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN) Executive Director Renee Victoria Hoyos will testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment regarding the TVA ash spill on March 31, 2009.
Renee Victoria Hoyos, Executive Director of Tennessee Clean Water Network and board president of the national Clean Water Network, met with President-elect Obama's transition team Monday in Washington, D.C., along with 30 other state and national environmental groups to discuss water issues across the nation.
|Press Release (PDF)||24.39 KB|
A group calling themselves the Coalition for Responsible Water Rights will be speaking at Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry's 26th Annual Environmental Awards Conference at Montgomery Bell State Park on October 2, 2008, to discuss the deregulation of water.
|Press Release (PDF)||22.43 KB|
|Press Release (PDF)||30.97 KB|
|TCWN’s Letter to the EPA (PDF)||45.88 KB|
|EPA’s Comments (PDF)||770.06 KB|
|Jernigan Suit Press Release (PDF)||46.45 KB|
|60-Day Notice of Intent to Suit Under the Clean Water Act (PDF)||66.25 KB|
|Supplement to 60 Day Notice (PDF)||14.64 KB|
Taxpayer dollars wasted while property owners suffer damage from overdevelopment
|Press Release (PDF)||47.59 KB|
|Expedited Enforcement launch - press release (PDF)||38.67 KB|
Citizen group kicks off enforcement campaign, Targets Mayor
Knox County Clean Water Alliance
|Press Release (PDF)||47.77 KB|
|Renee Hoyos, TCWN Executive Director, Remarks (PDF)||48.38 KB|
|Knox County Clean Water Alliance Flood Action Brochure (PDF)||264.63 KB|
Comments sent to the US Fish and Wildlife Service
|Press Release (PDF)||42.08 KB|
|Comments (PDF)||102.32 KB|
Cover memo sent to County, State officials regarding violations of state and federal laws in the proposed stormwater ordinance. Technical Memo sent to County, State officials outlining 11 points of contention.
|Press Release (PDF)||46.66 KB|
|Cover Memo (PDF)||54.76 KB|
|Technical Memo (PDF)||37.2 KB|
|Stormwater Memo to City Council (PDF)||90.48 KB|
Click here for Copies of Appeal Bills and Background
|Permit Appeals_Press Release_05.pdf||317 bytes|
|Center Hill Dam Press Release (PDF)||320 bytes|
|Center Hill Dam Full Report (PDF)||1.53 MB|