Still Murky 

Environmental group charges TDEC with lax enforcement.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has done nothing about several industries that have not followed proper sampling procedures required to drain storm water runoff into Cypress Creek and the Wolf River Harbor, according to the Water Sentinels, a division of the Sierra Club.

In January 2003, the Water Sentinels issued a report naming facilities that were found to be draining storm water into Cypress Creek without Tennessee Multi-Sector Stormwater Permits (TMSP). In April, a similar report was issued with regard to facilities illegally draining into the Wolf River Harbor. In June, the Flyer reported that TDEC had issued several notices of violation to those facilities operating without permits.

The latest report addresses facilities that had permits but were not following guidelines that require water discharge samples from 2002 to be sent to TDEC by March 31, 2003. The report states that 12 of the 15 permitted facilities in question had not sent their samples in by the deadline. When the files were checked again in November, several facilities -- including Velsicol, Mr. Complete Chrysler Recycled Parts, Iskiwitz Metals, and Metal Management -- were more than 200 days overdue, yet there were no enforcement actions on file.

"We understand the lack of funding and staffing [at TDEC's local Division of Water Pollution Control office], but going and shining a light on the problem is about all we can do as citizens," said James Baker, project director for the Water Sentinels. "What does it take to get the agency to do something about it? Based on the public files, not much was done."

According to Terry Templeton, manager of the Division of Water Pollution Control at TDEC's Memphis Environmental Assistance Center, the office was understaffed until about two weeks ago. Although he had not studied the Water Sentinels report at press time, he said the TMSP program is "just one of the many programs we have to perform duties in."

"I'm not trying to dispute the larger principle of protecting our waters, but with respect to alleged lack of activity on our division's part, I think the TMSP program needs to be put in context with all the other things we are simultaneously trying to do. ... I hope if we retain our current level of staffing, we'll be able to undertake these activities this year."

E-mail: bphillips@memphisflyer.com

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