Hope still alive for Maury Co. citizens as House vote nears to protect Duck River
Concerned Maury Countians bussed to the Capitol last week to rally to protect the health of the Duck River, unifying an otherwise unlikely electorate.
Leaders hope to punctuate efforts to support the House's approval of House Bill 0447 that would extend Class II Pastoral River protections. The bill will be heard by the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday at 9 a.m. after being delayed last week in committee.
Last week, over 100 Maury County residents, environmental advocates and elected officials attended the Wednesday committee meeting to hear the fate of the Duck River. Packing the committee room, many wore T-shirts and green buttons labeled, "Vote Yes."
Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, sponsor of the bill, said Friday in his five years as state representative, he has never seen such a high turnout of constituency for a bill.
The bill would extend the Duck River's Class II Pastoral River status, protecting it from intrusive development, such as a currently proposed solid waste landfill by Baton Rouge-based Trinity Business Group. The scenic protection designation would extend several miles along the Duck River’s eastern side from Industrial Park Road to the Hickman County line.
Related story:Jackson Law applies as first step to stop solid waste at Monsanto site
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Landfill proposal hangs in balance
Trinity Business Group has filed three permit applications to construct solid waste processing facilities at the former Monsanto Company chemical plant Superfund site — to be called "Star Hill Echo Park" — that would include a tire incinerator, sorting and shredding of demolition waste and an energy recovery processing facility, according to the permit applications submitted last summer to the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation.
However, TDEC states that TBG does not adequately describe what kind of "energy recovery" will be conducted at the site nor addresses how it will handle liquid that drains from solid waste.
In Sept. 9 correspondence between TDEC and Trinity's consultant Barge Design Solutions, Inc., TDEC addresses Trinity's lack of an explanation regarding how it will dispose of liquid contaminants.
"Adequate detail on how liquids will be directed to a wastewater treatment facility were notprovided," TDEC correspondence says in the application.
Barge Solutions responds as follows: “Should treatment be necessary, the water will be pumped and hauled to the local POTW or disposed of through the City of Columbia sewer system under an industrial dischargepermit or treated on site under NPDES permit TN0001538 once modified to address theadditional inflow characteristics.”
Community rallies to protect resource
Maury County residents are fighting alongside Cepicky to keep the river clean for drinking and recreation — and out of range of landfill development.
Supporters of the bill have sent more than 1,000 emails, made flyers and in growing number, continue to make the drive to Nashville to attend committee hearings and talk to legislators.
Related story:Commission passes protection measures for development near Duck River
Almost 200 supporters of the bill attended the House committee meeting last week. Just as many are planning to attend the session this week.
Many officials and residents plan to make a return trip to Nashville this week, said County Commission Chairman Eric Previti.
“The people of Maury County have a vested interest,” Cepicky said. “This is not just some ordinary river.”
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The Duck River has been named one of the most biodiverse rivers in the world, containing rare species of aquatic life, more than all rivers in Europe combined, according to environmental reports.
In the Senate, the companion bill SB 0464 passed unanimously, 33-0, on March 13, with no opposition. Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, serves as its sponsor.
Trinity Business Group founder speaks out
In a previous committee hearing on the bill, owner and founder of TBG, or the applicant, Sidney Brian spoke before the committee with attorney Tom White, pressing the committee to uphold his existing land owner rights on the property in order to allow his company to restore use of an inactive landfill on 305 acres.
Cepicky has previously criticized TBG for basing some of its permit applications on an old map from which they determined their distance from Columbia and the Duck River.
Some of TBG's permits have been questioned by city and county elected officials as falling under the state statute dubbed "The Jackson Law," which could thwart the development of the proposed landfills.
The Jackson Law requires city and county approval before a solid waste landfill can be constructed within a mile of that city. The city enacted the law several years ago, while the county approved it last fall.
Brian and White argue the Jackson Law is not applicable to landfills existing prior to the law’s passage, as marked on the application.
TBG maintains that the location of the landfill would be convenient and help process waste, which is becoming more difficult as landfills reach capacity in Middle Tennessee, according to a letter attached to the permit application, also claiming that the facility would lead to cost savings for the public.
"This is your classic battle of the people versus big industry," Cepicky said.
More about proposed 'Star Hill Echo Park'
Nashville-based firm, Barge Design Solutions, Inc., hired by Trinity’s subsidiary Remedial Holdings, LLC, filed a letter with their application on Jan. 17, appealing to Marshall/Maury Co. waste management members and TDEC representatives.
In the letter from Barge Division Lead C. Jason Repsher, Trinity addressed the Marshall/Maury Municipal Solid Waste Planning Regional Board, explaining why a massive waste management site is needed as landfills fill up across Middle Tennessee.
Star Hill Eco Park, could be set on as many as 1,373 acres, according to the company’s application with TDEC. The area falls in and around Monsanto federal superfund sites, tasked for clean-up and rehabilitation, managed by TDEC.
The landfill park in question would be located at or near 2262 Monsanto Road, and possibly fall within the TDEC 1,000-foot distance from a body of water rule for land developers.
TBG permits are pending with TDEC.
Duck River advocates, elected leaders and other Maury County land owners worry that the positioning of this landfill could potentially undo 60 years of pollutant cleanup.
Sam Kennedy, Maury County generational farm owner, spoke last week about his concern for his family's farm that has been in Maury Co. for almost eight generations.
“I’m here to represent my family farm on the Duck River, but also Maury County landowners for a scenic Duck River,” Kennedy said.
“My children are the eighth generation to live, work and play beside the river. The land has been cared for 212 years, and I’m already making plans to ensure that legacy makes it to 300.”
This article originally appeared on The Daily Herald: House to hear bill that would protect Duck River as community rallies