Knoxville Chemical Waste Permit Renewed After Citizen Hearing

On Oct. 11, a solid waste permit was renewed for Rohm and Haas Chemical Plant in Knoxville, Tenn.

To raise awareness of the plant, nonprofit groups Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, Science for the People’s Knoxville chapter, and Students Promoting Environmental Action in Knoxville were involved in a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation hearing on the permit renewal in September.

Community members voiced concerns over chemicals produced at the plant, standards used for waste storage, and quality of the cleanup of previous spills. The plant had previous infractions for leaking contaminants into local groundwater, and part of the waste permit’s mandate is to continue remediation work that began in 2008.

“A lot of people don’t even know there’s a potential danger,” says Tiara-Lady Wilson, a member of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment.

Rohm and Haas is required to remediate tetrachloroethene, which leaked into groundwater at the site, as part of the permit. The company has been injecting sodium lactate into groundwater sources as a form of bioremediation. Tetrachloroethene degrades into more toxic chemicals such as vinyl chloride, which have been linked to cancer, liver and kidney damage and more.

“At the end of the day, Rohm and Haas is following the law,” Wilson says. While no changes were made to the permit after public comment, Wilson notes that not everything that is legal is right.

“It’s the state-level regulators at this point that wield any power as far as actually monitoring and regulating giant corporations,” says Ben Allen of Science for the People. — By Eric Halvarson


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