- Friends of Lick Creek is seeking records from the Water Authority of Dickson County.
- The group has now challenges the agency in court over access to the records.
- The residents oppose a new sewage treatment plant along the creek.
A lawsuit to obtain public records has been filed in the ongoing fight to preserve the Lick Creek waterway in Hickman County.
Friends of Lick Creek, a community environmental group based in Hickman working to preserve the Lick Creek waterway from a proposed sewage treatment plant, announced Tuesday that it filed a lawsuit to obtain public records from the Water Authority of Dickson County after the company did not comply to “several records requests.”
Go deeper: How one rural county is fighting to save a pristine creek from pollution as Middle Tennessee grows
The requested records involve public documents detailing the water authority’s proposed sewage treatment plant in Hickman County and its plans to discharge waste into Lick Creek.
Concerns over the plant gained momentum last year, when it was discovered that the plant has the potential to discharge up to 12 million gallons of waste a day into Lick Creek — raising concerns over possible flooding, contaminated wells, and environmental damage.
According to a statement from Friends of Lick Creek, the lawsuit alleges that water authority erected hurdles and imposed conditions on access to its records, effectively denying the Friends of Lick Creek the public records.
Friends of Lick Creek is asking the court to order the water authority to produce the requested public records.
The Water Authority of Dickson County declined to comment on the pending litigation, but in a statement Wednesday, executive director Michael Adams said the utility has been in communication with Save Lick Creek’s attorney regarding the records and has “responded in good faith to his request for public records falling under” open records laws.
“Given the matter is now before the court, the Water Authority of Dickson County cannot comment about pending litigation,” Adams said.
The law firm of Butler Snow, LLP filed the petition in the Chancery Court of Dickson County on behalf Friends of Lick Creek.
Rodes Hart, Friends of Lick Creek co-founder, said he is not surprised by the water authority’s resistance to complying with the public records requests.
“Transparency has been a problem since the beginning,” Hart said in a statement. “For example, the WADC did not properly disclose their intent to build a sewage treatment plant in Hickman County and has continuously kept vital information from the public including a potential site for the new plant. If the WADC insists on dumping waste from neighboring counties into an Exceptional Tennessee Water, it could at least abide by the law.”
Tennessee Coalition for Open Government supports of the group’s efforts.
“For the sake of citizen’s trust and confidence in organizations, transparency and respect for the law is of the utmost importance,” said Deborah Fisher, the open government group’s executive director.
How did we get here?
The wastewater treatment facility was proposed by the Water Authority of Dickson County following the increasing strain Middle Tennessee’s booming population is putting on the agency’s three other treatment centers.
The water agency has stated that its three other wastewater treatment plants in Dickson and Williamson counties are all nearing 95% capacity, and that a plant in east Hickman is critical for population growth over the next two decades.
While an exact location for the treatment plant has yet to be determined, Lick Creek has been eyed as the best option because of its size as a large tributary. Other options, such as expanding current facilities or building a pipeline under Interstate 40 to the Cumberland River, would be too costly and wouldn’t be enough for future growth, the agency has said.
But a large number of Hickman County residents disagree, advocating for the preservation of Lick Creek, which empties into the Duck River — a major water supply for much of the rural county’s farmlands, and a river labeled as one of the most biodiverse in North America.
Hickman County commissioners have stated that they were never consulted on the potential project.
As of December, the water district’s permit application was pending approval by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which oversees permits for pollution discharge into waterways.
The approval process requires a public hearing where opponents can raise concerns. A hearing date has yet to be set.
Kelly Puente contributed to this report.
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