Chemical plant poses threat to Tennessee river, environmentalists warn

July 15, 2014

U.S. Nitrogen has announced plans to use water from Tennessee’s Nolichucky River in its chemical plant to produce ammonium nitrate, which has raised concerns among local communities and environmental groups.

U.S. Nitrogen, a subsidiary of Ohio-based Austin Powder Co., has announced plans to use water from Tennessee's Nolichucky River in its chemical plant to produce ammonium nitrate, the Associated Press reported.

The news raised concerns among local communities and environmental groups, who claim that using water from the river for industrial purposes would lead to its contamination. If U.S. Nitrogen was to take water from the Nolichucky River, it would treat it and release it back to the water body containing a certain amount of ammonia. Even though the water would have passed through the facility's wastewater treatment plant, the water discharge permit obtained by the company would allow it to discharge limited amounts of ammonia into the river. According to media reports, such a permit has already been granted by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

U.S. Nitrogen claims that treated water discharged into the river will not pose any risk to the environment, the Associated Press reported. But environmentalists seem to be unconvinced. Brian Paddock, Sierra Club attorney, explained that his main concern was the amount of ammonia to be discharged into the river, as well as the potential impact of long-term pollution. Other potential causes of concern include the cumulative effect of the discharge downstream on communities that are already dealing with nitrogen pollution from fertilizers, and the volume of water in the river and at the discharge point.

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