The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Displaying items by tag: sediment pollution

2306channelGrading along Maryville Pike in Knoxville pumped sediment into a nearby stream and on to the Tennessee River. The owner of the property was cited for violating state water-quality laws. Courtesy Knoxville Stormwater Management

Tennessee Homebuilders Association and Tennessee Chamber of Commerce support reduced site inspections

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

Cindy Whitt and Judy Alexander, neighbors in the Westhaven subdivision in Williamson County for nearly 15 years, have watched their development grow from a small new-build subdivision of 500 homes to now more than 2,500.

In that time, on their regular walks together, they’ve also witnessed the results of dwindling green space as construction has surged:

“Almost everything from the construction runs through our storm sewer,” said Alexander. “Even though the developers put up fences (designed to prevent silt from escaping) all you need is a really steady rain — it doesn’t have to be heavy — and it all flows into our the Harpeth and the West Harpeth.”

The pair have contacted the Corps of Engineers, the city of Franklin and the state department of environment and conservation, but despite inspections, overflow ponds and new fencing, the problem persists.

“It blows my mind if we can’t even enforce the rules in wealthy Williamson County,” said Whitt, who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970’s.

The women are now among more than 100 Tennessee residents who have voiced their opposition in public meetings and in written comments to proposed revisions to the permitting process for construction companies that Whitt fears will make the problems worse.

The proposed change by the state’s environmental regulators would roll back longstanding regulation for construction site runoff — rainwater that sweeps soil or other particles off site and into nearby waterways, often creating deposits of silt that impact water quality and aquatic life.

In an unusual move, a division within the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation  — the Division of Natural Areas — has weighed in to take issue with the permit change.
 
“We believe that sites assessments remain a key tool in understanding the character of a site and can provide documentation of ecological resources prior to commencement of construction,”  a staff member in the Division of Water Resources wrote to colleagues at TDEC.
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2306channelGrading work at a site off Maryville Pike in Knoxville led to silt discharges that resulted in several notices of violation from Tennessee and Knox County regulators. Photo courtesy TDEC.

Critics say new rules could run afoul of Clean Water Act

 

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

A state plan to rollback longstanding regulations for construction site runoff is drawing opposition from environmental groups who fear that Tennessee creeks and streams will suffer.

Stormwater discharges from construction sites — rainwater that sweeps soil or other particles off-site — can flow into nearby waterways, often creating silt deposits that impact aquatic life and water quality.

Historically, silt has been one of the primary pollutants in Tennessee’s waterways, a paper explaining the proposed new rules from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, or TDEC, said. Just one millimeter of soil spread over a one-acre site can weigh 5 tons, and “even a minor uncontrolled construction activity can cause major impairment in surface water,” through runoff, the paper said.

Nevertheless, TDEC is proposing significant changes in state environmental oversight of builders, developers, property owners, contractors and subcontractors in controlling runoff.

Published in Water
Friday, 02 April 2021 13:30

The battle of Flenniken Branch

2306channelThis photo was included in a TDEC report compiled March 11. It shows an excavated stream channel amid extensive grading work at 2306 Maryville Pike.  

Developer of Maryville Pike property in South Knox County faces multiple state, county citations over alleged sediment pollution

The rapid growth of South Knox County has expanded far from the perimeters of the center city and extended into more development-rich areas.

One case in point: Significant development is taking place along a once-sleepy section of Maryville Pike between Vestal and Rockford.

There is a new entrance to the expanded I.C. King Park and its dog park and playground. Just south, one of the country’s largest home builders is finishing its Sevier Meadows subdivision.

There is another development that illustrates the growing pains and legacy costs that have prompted the county and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to issue a stop-work order and levy multiple fines and citations against the current developer of the old Mayo seed warehouse site.

There are lessons to be learned from a small waterway called Flenniken Branch about the potential impacts of development on aquatic habitats and other public resources — and the ability of the government to protect those resources.

A troubled legacy

Decades of heavy industrial activity left a troubled environmental legacy near the Mount Olive community. Now a new 30-acre construction site is alleged by the state and county to be a significant source of sediment and debris that ultimately end up in the Tennessee River and its tributaries. The state also alleges the contractor buried a stream, and destroyed wetlands at another nearby property.

The Knoxville-based contractor, Kenn Davin, said he is working to correct the violations, but contends the alleged erosion violations are largely the result of runoff from nearby properties, and that the removal of trees from utility rights of way worsened the problem.

To make matters worse, one of those nearby sources of runoff, Davin said, is the so-called Witherspoon property, which was so contaminated by industrial waste the Environmental Protection Agency capped and sealed the site a decade ago.

The property in question is a 28.5-acre parcel at 2306 Maryville Pike, which abuts the Mount Olive Cemetery near Berry Road and was once the site of the D.R. Mayo Seed Co. warehouse.

Mayo sold the property in August 2019 to Florida-based CW Trust. Davin, principal at Knoxville-based contractor Design One, was designated as the site developer.

Over the course of the last 13 months, TDEC’s Department of Water Resources has issued three notices of violation for land disturbances and other impermissible activity at the Maryville Pike property.

The last notice was issued Nov. 20, 2020. Subsequent inspections in January and March noted that Davin was still out of compliance with action steps that had been required by the state.

Davin has not secured the permits required for the significant grading operations on the property, according to the county.

“They have not secured their necessary permits through our department for land disturbance,” said Knox County Stormwater Program Manager Natalie Landry.

Knox County Stormwater Management served a notice of violation for the 2306 Maryville Pike property on Feb. 9, 2021. The developer did not appeal, and a $500 civil penalty was levied.

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