A closer look
June 20, 2022
By BRADLEY A. MARTIN
More than six months after the Water Authority of Dickson County filed an application to create a wastewater treatment plant in the Bon Aqua area and send effluent into Lick Creek, there is no clarity about when the state Department of Environment and Conservation will act.
“If and when TDEC decides to issue a draft permit for public comment, a public hearing will be scheduled and publicized,” said Kim Schofinski, the department’s deputy communications director.
Amanda Mathis, a leader of Save Lick Creek, the citizens group that has been formed to oppose the project, said on June 7 in response to a query from the Times that “we are told TDEC has paused this permit approval process to give the citizens of Hickman County time to investigate” the project “and its impact on their way of life.”
Michael Adams, executive director of the water authority, told the Times on the same day, “It is anticipated the draft permit will be issued in the next few months.”
Save Lick Creek, Mathis said, has support from more than 1,000 volunteers and has raised more than $200,000 “to help in our fight.” The contributions include “portions of citizens Social Security checks and even bags of change.”
The funds will support the citizens’ group’s reliance on professional help, including the legal firm of Butler Snow, Cooley Public Strategies and “multiple top-tier environmental and other consulting firms.”
She claims WADC is a “for profit entity,” though Adams said earlier that the water and wastewater operation was created by the Tennessee General Assembly as a public governmental utility whose board members are appointed by public officials in Dickson County and meet in public.
Save Lick Creek, whose yellow roadside signs compete for attention with those campaigning for public office, has asked citizens to write letters to TDEC officials in opposition to the project. On June 7, Schofinski said 177 letters had been received by TDEC.
Those include a letter from Keith Nash, an elected Hickman County Legislative Body member and project opponent whose district includes the proposed area, to TDEC Commissioner David Salyers.
His June 1 letter took issue with the water authority’s statement that it had discussed the project with “community leaders” for several years, gaining agreement that the project is necessary.
Nash said his 16 years on the Legislative Body had included no discussion with WADC. He criticized the application for its reliance on “community leaders’” support, rather than “local elected officials.”
“The WADC has acted as a bad neighbor, in bad faith and has attempted in the darkness of night to bully their way into a community where they have not been invited or their help requested,” wrote Nash, whose letter also says that the project is not necessary for community growth.
Though a 2005 interlocal agreement with the Legislative Body assigns wastewater oversight responsibility in East Hickman County to WADC, Nash wrote that the authority has “assumed a decision-making role not given to them by any action of the people of Hickman County.”
He asked that the commissioner set aside WADC’s application as “bad work product,” deny a permit and consider a review of other WADC filings from what he called “a deeply flawed organization.”
The citizens’ group also has asked supporters to leave comments for TDEC officials at a specific phone number, 931-716-0168. Last Thursday, Schofinski said TDEC has not “received any messages that have been attributed to that phone number.”
On March 17 letter, Butler Snow attorney B. Hart Knight wrote a letter to TDEC Deputy Commissioner Gregory Young, calling the water authority’s application “woefully inadequate” and saying that it “does not and cannot comply” with TDEC regulations.
He says the effluent discharge point into Lick Creek “is not within” the 75-year service area identified by WADC, but is eight miles away from it.
Knight also echoed citizens’ concerns about the effect of effluent release on farming, fishing and recreation, as well as property values. He questioned the effect of the proposed effluent release on trout, a fish that is not stocked in Lick Creek but is evidently prospering, based on photos he submitted.
Adams has maintained that the effluent will cause no harm to Lick Creek. It will not contain bacteria, E.coli or viruses, and will adhere to state limits that would be established by a permit.
TDEC’s Young invited WADC attorney William Penny to respond to Knight’s letter.
He told the state that Lick Creek is “the only feasible alternative” to serve growth needs in the area between Highway 46, I-40 and I-840. Wastewater is projected to increase in Hickman County by 29 percent by 2045.
Adams said earlier this month that Duck River also has been considered as an effluent discharge point, as the Tennessee Duck River Development Agency had suggested in a May letter.
The WADC executive said it would require 10 additional miles of pipeline and cost an additional $15 million.
As proposed now, the project’s initial cost is $40 million — Penny’s letter says it would be $50-million — to create the treatment station and run the effluent discharge line. It is projected to reach $249 million when a 12-milliongallon a-day need arrives at the end of the century.
That, from Save Lick Creek’s standpoint, would be a “mega wastewater plant.” The possibility is at the root of what the citizens group calls “a battle to save Lick Creek and Hickman County.”