By Kimber Ray
Rights to the Nolichucky River in Midway, Tenn., have remained contentious since 2011, when U.S. Nitrogen proposed an industrial chemical facility with a 10-mile pipeline connected to the river. The pipeline would withdraw nearly 2 million gallons of water per day, and 500,000 gallons would be returned, contaminated with small amounts of ammonium and nitrogen.
Local citizens have responded by forming a grassroots organization, Save the Nolichucky, and filing suit against U.S. Nitrogen and the Industrial Development Board of Greeneville and Greene County.
After initial rejection, U.S. Nitrogen obtained a permit to build the pipeline by partnering with the Industrial Development Board. The Board alleges that U.S. Nitrogen’s 80 future positions will provide jobs to the community, which allows U.S. Nitrogen to cite compliance with a Tennessee state law mandating that any potentially damaging activity to the Nolichucky must benefit the public interest.
Citizens are concerned that heavy water withdrawals and pollution will damage the river’s endangered aquatic life and restrict future use by the public. There is no established minimum flow level for the river’s water levels and, if completed, at least two additional companies are planning to withdraw water from the pipeline.