Official: Gov. wants a slowdown
March 07, 2022 By BRADLEY A. MARTIN
Cecille Allen (left with mic) spoke to a jammed-in crowd at East Hickman Community Center
A decision to issue a draft permit for a sewage treatment plant that would deliver effluent to Lick Creek will not be made “in the next few weeks,” a deputy Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) commissioner said at East Hickman Community Center on February 25.
“Honestly, that’s coming at the request of the governor’s office,” said Greg Young. “We’re going to be pumping the brakes a little bit.”
Young said he was “listening and learning” at the Friday night meeting, which drew more than 200 folks to the community center. No one spoke in favor of Water Authority of Dickson County’s project application, which was filed with TDEC in January.
A draft permit issuance would cause a public hearing to be held at least 30 days later, with a 10-day written comment period to follow.
So far, TDEC has posted only the application, which is one source of frustration for those concerned about what the proposal would do to Lick Creek.
At the Save Lick Creek meeting, TDEC’s Greg Young tracked comments both pro and con about the Water Authority of Dickson County’s Lick Creek wastewater proposal. Positive comments, he said, were in the left column.
The application is, however, enough to see that most of the wastewater WADC will send to the Lick Creek station will come from its plants in White Bluff and Dickson, which it says are reaching capacity.
Vange Johnson, whose family has farmland adjacent to the creek and called the waterway “a cathedral,” voiced a concern that she said her sister raised to her:
“Why do I want somebody else’s poop?” She was not the only one to ask that question.
“We do think that Hickman County has the capacity to figure out how to manage their own waste,” said Rodes Hart, an organizer of Save Lick Creek.
Organizer Amanda Mathis told the group that Save Lick Creek is working with several groups with experience in environmental matters. Those include the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, Harpeth Conservancy, Southern Environmental Law Center, and consultant Barry Sulkin.
A representative of Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, who identified himself as Jim, said this group has “been fighting corporations and whatnot to keep rivers open, clean and accessible since 1966.”
How to accomplish that — finding a solution for “placing wastewater in the most effective way,” as Bill Allen said during his prayer that opening the meeting — is the question.
Hart asked that those making comments during the meeting address the potential harm that concerns them as well as any benefits that might come from the wastewater plant and its release into the creek.
“The benefits that our farm will receive from this project, I have no idea,” said Cecile Allen, who reported that her family has had property in the area since 1826. “It seems like there is absolutely nothing.
“If it brings industry to Hickman County, good industry, that would be a positive thing because I would like to see all of our young people have jobs if they want them in Hickman County.
“But I fear that what it will bring is harm to the wildlife, to the fish, to the creek, to the water, to my spring water, to my neighbor’s well water. I fear it will harm us as a recreation. “
Ray Oakley said he and his dad farm 455 acres on the south part of the creek; it’s been that way for 139 years.
“We’re concerned about the additional flooding. As all of you property owners know, two- or three-inch flash flood, our fields are underwater. We grow 105 acres of row crops on Barren Fork and Lick Creek.”
He said any heavy metals that are released in the effluent would contaminate the soil “and it’s going to affect our livelihood.”
He saw nothing good coming from the WADC proposal.
“We’ll never have city water, so if it contaminates our well, which is only a few hundred feet from the creek, it’s anyone’s guess.”
Farmer Greg Deen, who has lived on the creek for nearly 60 years, was not happy about the possibility.
“As it stands right now, based on what we’ve seen, the line of this system will be coming right through our farm. We’ve already lost a good piece of it to Highway 7 so we’re not really thrilled about this, And as far as any benefit to it, I don’t see any at all.”
Johnson said her family’s roots on the “hilltop” of Lick Creek can be added up to 660 years, with farming, recreation, even marriage proposals and baptisms, centered around and on the creek. Her family’s pursuits employ more than 100 people, she said.
“I had a friend come up to me this morning and say, ‘Vange, the day you took me to the creek saved my life in those waters. I was going to kill myself that day.’ And she said, ‘You took me and it saved my life.’
“The people that surround it . . . we might look like farmers tonight and we might be looking like we’re a little bit uneducated, as some person said, but we . . . are wealthy in farm life and family and in the Lick Creek, some of us are New York Times bestselling authors. Some are lawyers and doctors, famous musicians. We’re not some low-life who don’t know what we’re talking about.”
She introduced her son, Zadok, an organic farmer on 294 acres who preparing to seek a U.S. Department of Agriculture certification as an organic farm. The release of treated effluent into the creek threatens that, he said; “freaking out” is one of his reactions to the wastewater proposal.
“Holding to our high organic standards, we will no longer be able to irrigate holistically out of Lick Creek, thus completely destroying my personal farming operation,” he told those at the meeting.
Zadok Johnson said he already sells produce in neighboring counties “and some of the greatest restaurants in Nashville” as well “as thousands of pounds of healthy vegetables to cancer patients.”
His study of USDA National Institute for Food research indicates that wastewater plant discharge “may contain trace impurities” of drugs, anti-bacterial soap, cosmetics, shampoos and pharmaceutical, and personal-care products.
The organic farmer said he knows of 12 Lick Creek farms, involving 38 farmers and 4,193 farm acres.
Lisa Morgan, whose family has been here since 1969, focused on the developmental effect the wastewater project could have.
“We need to step back and realize that there won’t be a discharge on Lick Creek unless there’s a plant discharging it. If they decide to put a sewage plant in East Hickman County, they will be running lines with easement across all kinds of farms. . . .
“The county doesn’t have a plan to manage the developers who are going to barrel in here from other counties mostly, making money to go to counties — not Hickman — and they’re going to build and build and build.”