KNOXVILLE – Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN) and the Tennessee office of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) 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 in the state. It highlights a poster-child stream – Oliver Creek – in Lakeland in west Tennessee.
"TDEC has determined that sediment is the number one cause of pollution in the State of Tennessee," said Renée Hoyos, Executive Director for TCWN. "Yet they insist on allowing developers to work under the General Storm Water Permit which does not even have permit limits on how much mud they can release."
Oliver Creek is a tributary of the Loosahatchie River in northeast Shelby County, just outside of Memphis. The headwaters of the creek are located near I-40 and the City of Lakeland, with a portion of the stream flowing through the city. Lakeland is a rapidly growing residential area with a projected population of 8,500 by 2005.
"Streams are getting destroyed, and flood planes are being filled causing new areas to flood, but they're acting like everything's OK." according to Barry Sulkin, former head of enforcement for TDEC's water pollution program and now Director of the Tennessee office of PEER. "Staff members know this program is a mess, but management is afraid to stand up to developers."
The general permit is often not an appropriate mechanism for authorizing discharges, especially to a stream already polluted with sediment as is the case with Oliver Creek. Use of the general permit and the continuing discharge of sediment to Oliver Creek are in violation of state and federal water quality regulations.
Along with release of this report, TCWN and PEER are filing a formal complaint with TDEC pursuant to the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act. TCWN and PEER have recommended that TDEC discontinue use of the construction storm water general permit under certain circumstances outlined in the report, deny some permit requests, better enforce against violations on construction sites that do not comply, create numeric limits for sediment discharges, and accelerate the schedule for the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) – the water quality management plan - for Oliver Creek.
To obtain paper copy of the report, please contact TCWN at 865-522-7007