Hickman County Times: Letters to the Editor – Utility’s recent submission is more of same (3/20/2023)

In December 2021, the Water Authority of Dickson County (WADC) submitted a permit application to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) to build a sewer plant in Hickman County that would discharge 12 million gallons a day of sewage effluent into Lick Creek, our exceptional Tennessee waterway.

They did it with no outreach to the citizens of Hickman County. Fortunately, someone noticed a small sign stuck to a bridge along Highway 7 and raised the red flag.

Last spring, hundreds of citizens mobilized and voiced their opposition. Fortunately, TDEC listened and also found the application lacking. TDEC asked the WADC for additional information. Months passed, and still no effort was made by the WADC to reach out to the citizens of Hickman County about its plans. In fact, efforts made by our mayor and several commissioners to engage the WADC about this proposal were also rejected. Hickman County citizens should have a voice in this matter.

This past December, they submitted additional information to TDEC. The Friends of Lick Creek, with the help of lawyers, scientists, water quality and regulatory experts, have evaluated the latest information as well as the earlier submittal. After our thorough review, the result is the same:

The WADC’s latest submission does not address the fundamental flaws in its proposal to build a treatment plant in Hickman County that would discharge up to 12 million gallons a day into Hickman County’s waterways, Lick Creek and the Duck River.

The WADC proposal is defective for many technical and legal reasons that are complex but can be broken into several main points:

— First, a plant discharging to Lick Creek is not a valid, long-term, regional solution. Instead, it is a band-aid approach; creating new infrastructure and adversely impacting community streams. These community streams face negative consequences as evidenced by the sewer slime (Sphaerotilus) prevalent in Trace Creek.

— The WADC proposal allows sewage from the plant to enter the Duck River watershed, one of the most biologically diverse waterways in the United States.

— The WADC failed to evaluate all reasonable alternatives, including a no-action alternative. Its analysis was purely a “straw man” exercise with a predetermined outcome in mind.

— The WADC failed to consider the inherent economic value of conservation and preserving Lick Creek as a pristine waterway.

— The WADC’s economic growth claims are false.

— The WADC failed to consider the negative “costs” of growth in its analysis: higher cost of living, increased traffic, overcrowding, strained infrastructure and reduction of vital natural resources.

— The WADC could not show that the plant would not adversely impact the Coppercheek Darter, a state listed (threatened) species.

This issue is not a win-or-lose situation. The Cumberland River is the regional answer for sewage effluent discharge. The WADC needs to expand its capacity and address problems with its existing plant at Jones Creek.

Combining the Cumberland opportunity and the Jones Creek plant expansion with additional measures such as reclamation, reuse and infiltration repair to the Jones Creek plant, would significantly expand the WADC’s capacity. This alternative would protect East Hickman County, Lick Creek and the Duck River, while still accommodating any and all growth that may occur.

The permit application to build a plant to discharge to Lick Creek must be denied.

Friends of Lick Creek

Hickman County Times: Letter to the Editor – Blessed here with water (3/6/2023)

In 1820, my family settled at Rock Spring along the Duck River in Maury County. As a boy, I hunted and fished with my father on the Duck River.

Since 1977, my family has owned a farm on the Duck River at Whitson Bend in Hickman County. I have been blessed with the opportunity to observe the Duck in spring, summer, fall and winter. I have hunted on it in 10 degree bitter cold and watched it change from a gentle stream to a raging torrent.

In 2010, National Geographic magazine named the Duck River one of the 10 most biodiverse places on the earth. Think about that. Not in Tennessee, not in the U.S. But in the whole world.

That same year, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a Senate Resolution (SJR862) recognizing and honoring the Duck River watershed as a true treasure of Tennessee. The Duck River watershed area of Swan Creek, Lick Creek, Beaverdam Creek and the Piney River are rare, precious jewels.

We are truly blessed in Hickman County.

But today, Hickman County is threatened. The Water Authority of Dickson County (WADC) has plans to dump its sewage into Lick Creek. Oh, they claim it will be limited and refined. Do you really believe that?

Here are the facts:

1. WADC breached its 2005 written agreement with Hickman County to consult and communicate with Hickman County officials. WADC, like thieves in the night, silently filed its sewage application with the state Department of Environment and Conservation.

2. WADC is currently in violation of state law in discharge from their White Bluff sewage plant. They have also been sued for improper discharge into Jones Creek, further polluting the Harpeth River.

3. Dickson County has access to the Cumberland River for its sewage and water needs. Not 10 years from now but today. Their own engineers have advised them to discharge into the Cumberland as opposed to taking over Hickman County. This is the common-sense solution for everyone. But instead, they see an opportunity to take advantage of and bully Hickman County.

4. In five years, they can file a new application doubling or tripling the amount of sewage they dump into Hickman County’s waters. There will be nothing that Hickman County citizens can do about that.

5. WADC officials were not elected by Hickman County citizens. These officials owe us nothing; and they have no duty to Hickman County.

In short, Hickman County will do a fine job planning for our future.

Please stand up for your families, your neighbors and Hickman County. Oppose the WADC application for a sewage plant on Lick Creek.


Jones wrote the Senate Resolution (SJR862) honoring the Duck River. He has served on the Board of the Duck River Watershed Association.

Main Street Fairview: Lawsuit filed in battle to save Lick Creek (2/21/2023)

  • By NANCY STEPHENS Main Street Fairview
  • Feb 21, 2023
Lick Creek could be impacted if WADC is permitted to build a sewer treatment plant that would dump effluent into the creek.STUART MOOR

There’s a pristine creek running peacefully through forests and farmland in Williamson, Maury and Hickman Counties which flows into the Duck River. However, the “peace” surrounding the creek has been disrupted after the public learned of a Water Authority of Dickson County (WADC) plan to dump effluent discharge into Lick Creek.

Last spring, a public notice observed on a bridge over Lick Creek on Highway 7 revealed a permit request to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) to allow WADC to construct a sewage treatment plant in the vicinity of Highways 100 and 7 which would discharge millions of gallons of wastewater into Lick Creek.

The creek is a few miles from the Fairview city limits, but many residents in the area have taken an interest in the creek’s protection effort. Many of those have visited the creek for warm-weather water outings.

The Save Lick Creek movement was formed by a diversity of people now known as the Friends of Lick Creek (FLC). They advise, “WADC appears to only be interested in expanding its reach at the expense of the citizens of Hickman County.”

WADC suggest the plant will promote growth in Hickman County which currently has no access to wastewater treatment. WADC owns and operates Fairview’s water system and has three wastewater treatment plants in Dickson and Williamson Counties, all operating near capacity. That problem led WADC to look at expanding services in new growth areas.

However, FLC feels Hickman County residents “should be the ones to determine what establishes quality of life issues, as this pertains to their rights and obligations to relay their thoughts to their elected representatives who promote the communities’ best interests.”

Advocating for self-determination and environmental justice under the banner Save Lick Creek, the FLC’s baseline is “No water — No life” which drives their myriad concerns. Those concerns include environmental damage, contaminated well water and flooding as the proposed plant has the potential to discharge millions of gallons of wastewater a day into Lick Creek.

FLC are also concerned with WADC’s process, referencing a lack of communication with residents and elected officials. Seeking more details, FLC recently filed a lawsuit in Dickson County Chancery Court against the WADC, claiming the public utility failed to fulfill multiple open records requests.

“When it comes to transparency, the WADC’s meter reading is unimpressive to say the least, with one exception: the cheapest way to achieve their long-term goals, is to exploit Hickman County land and resources,” according to FLC.

The lack of trust has also raised the question of why Fairview has no representation on the WADC board. The acquisition of Fairview’s system in 2006 has created growth delays over the years with more recent larger developments installing STEP systems with smaller developments able to obtain sewer taps.

WADC’s permit application is pending TDEC approval with TDEC representatives scheduled to meet with Hickman County elected officials this Friday, February 24.

To learn more, you can visit SaveLickCreek.com or their Facebook page.

Hickman County Times: Letter to the Editor – Fundamental problems with Lick Creek plan (2/6/2023)

For more than 20 years, I served as a member and chair of the Water Quality Oil and Gas Board, which is the state board responsible for overseeing water and wastewater policy, regulatory and permitting programs under the jurisdiction of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. It was an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of our state in this role.

As a result, I have a rare perspective on the Water Authority of Dickson County’s proposal to build a sewage treatment plant that would discharge 12 million gallons a day into Lick Creek, which flows directly into the Duck River.

I live in a rural section of Williamson County at the headwaters of South Lick Creek. I grew up catching minnows in Lick Creek and have appreciated its beauty all my life.

After reviewing the WADC application, I believe the permit should be denied. There are fundamental problems with the proposal.

My concerns with the WADC proposal are several fold:

— Another band-aid solution: The proposed plant purports to provide a long-term solution for wastewater needs in the region but it fails to do so.

In the early 2000s, the WADC was looking at long-term solutions for the projected growth in the Dickson, Hickman and Williamson county area. Its consultant, Brown and Caldwell, identified expanding their existing plants and directing wastewater to the Cumberland River as a potential solution.

That decision was not pursued and the WADC limped along with the existing plants discharging to Jones Creek and Trace Creek. Those plants are now under duress and operations are straining those waterways.

Now, recognizing the problems at the Jones Creek plant, it proposes to redirect flow and add additional growth to a new plant in Hickman County with a discharge to an exceptional Tennessee waterway.

That is not a long-term solution — that is just the proverbial “kicking the can down the road.” In a few years, the problems at Trace Creek and Jones Creek will show up on Lick Creek. It is time to find a real long-term solution, not just more band aids.

— Impacts on Lick Creek: The WADC wants to build a plant somewhere in Hickman County (it still will not say where) with a discharge into pristine Lick Creek. This will ruin the creek below the outfall as a fishing and recreational use destination and damage the creek in many additional ways.

The WADC has still not done a detailed analysis on the impacts to the creek. It simply asserts that as a truth in its application. That is not sufficient. The WADC’s director has said the water will be clean enough to drink below the outfall. Seriously?

Recently the Southern Environmental Law Center did an investigation of the outfall below the WADC plant on Trace Creek and found serious concerns and noncompliance with their permit. TDEC is investigating it.

— Not for benefit of Hickman County residents: Even by the WADC’s own admission, most of the waste to be discharged from this plant will come from outside Hickman County. The WADC has adjusted the numbers a bit on the exact percentage and tried to portray this project as one that is for the benefit of Hickman County. But that is just not the case.

This attempt to take sewage generated in wealthier communities and discharge into Lick Creek smacks of “environmental classism.” Is it a “benefit” to Hickman County to be the sewage dumping ground for wealthier Williamson and Dickson county waste?

Ask the residents of Murfreesboro about how they feel about the Middlepoint Landfill and what it has done to the community there.

Hickman County residents — even if they are not on the sewer — will bear the cost of higher taxes and higher housing prices and all the revenue from the plant will go to the WADC. We have seen, in areas like Spring Hill and other small communities around Nashville, how long-term residents are displaced by suburban sprawl. We are losing our rural way of life.

— Impact on the Duck River Watershed: If the WADC obtains a permit to discharge to Lick Creek, it means they will now be discharging to the Duck River watershed. That opens the door for the WADC to seek to take water from the Duck River.

The Duck River, which is the most biodiverse river in the world, is already strained due to the growth in Middle Tennessee south of Nashville. It does not need additional sewer discharges or water withdrawals.

No one is opposed to smart, well-planned growth. Even if you concede the projections for growth in Dickson and Williamson counties, and even Hickman County, the solution must be one that is viable for the long term, is equitable and just, does not threaten natural treasures like Lick Creek and the Duck Creek Watershed, and does not threaten the rural way of life of Hickman County residents. The WADC proposal fails on all these fronts.

I urge TDEC to reject the WADC permit application, and bring together environmental groups and citizens of the impacted areas to find a rationale path forward.


Hickman County Times: TDEC will listen here to officials regarding Lick Creek (2/13/2023)

Feb. 24

February 13, 2023

Two Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials will visit with several local leaders to gauge opinions about the proposed wastewater treatment plant that would send effluent into Lick Creek.

According to Keith Nash, chairman of the Hickman County Legislative Body, deputy commissioner Greg Young and regional external affairs adviser Chuck Yoest will collect views from county commissioners whose districts would be affected by the project plus Mayor Jim Bates and economic development specialist Brenda Brock.

Commissioners invited: Matthew Barnhill and Wayne Thomasson, District 3; Steve Gianakos and Nash, District 4; and Dusty Jordan and Ron Mayberry, District 5.

The state officials will meet with each of those local leaders individually on Friday, February 24 at the Centerville CoWorks Center.

“I think these folks are doing their job,” said Nash, an outspoken critic of the Water Authority of Dickson County project. “They want to know what the folks in the county feel.”

Nash said it’s the first time, to his knowledge, that TDEC has reached out to local officials about the utility’s application, which led to the formation of Friends of Lick Creek, which has sought to raise opposition to the project because of its possible effect on an undisturbed stream.

Hickman County Times: Water Issues: A Bigger View is Needed (2/13/2023)

Chief Executive Tennessee Wildlife Federation

Imagine: it’s early fall. The sun is shining. You’re driving west from Middle Tennessee. As you get beyond the cities, you look out the window at the landscape. Trees, a mix of greens and yellows and oranges, are all around. The trees begin to give way to openings with towering stalks of corn and vast fields of soybeans. The land is at its most fruitful — and it brings you a sense of peace.

Hickman County is full of scenes like this. Despite being just an hour away from Nashville, Hickman County is a rural oasis, filled with farmland and natural areas as far as the eye can see.

An essential part of that scene is water.

Flowing east to west across the middle of Hickman County is the most biologically diverse river in North America: Duck River. Its 284 miles flows through seven Tennessee counties and is home to more than 200 species of fish, mussels and snails. The Duck River also provides fresh water for 250,000 Middle Tennessee residents and is a key water source for the farmland surrounding it.

With the rapid population growth and expansion of Middle Tennessee cities, the Duck River and its tributaries are facing new challenges. It appears a choice must be made between the needs of people in the city versus the needs of people in these rural areas.

Lick Creek is an ecologically and recreationally significant tributary to the Duck River, located in east Hickman County. It is classified as an “exceptional Tennessee water” due to the presence of the coppercheek darter, a threatened fish species only found in the Duck River system.

In January 2022, Hickman County residents discovered a plan to build a sewage treatment plant on Lick Creek. The Water Authority of Dickson County proposed the new plant because its current plants in neighboring Dickson and Williamson counties are nearing capacity and will not sustain the projected population growth of those counties.

However, the proposed plant is designed to eventually discharge up to 12 million gallons of wastewater every day into Lick Creek, which naturally carries around 8 million gallons of natural flow. The sheer energy of this significant increase is considered a serious threat to the creek’s channel stability and important aquatic habitats.

While the wastewater plant would meet federal and state standards for discharge of monitored pollutants, these plants do experience operational failures from time to time. Factor in the unmonitored pollutants, whose effects on the environment are still unknown, and there exist real concerns that wastewater from this proposed plant could have potentially detrimental impacts on wildlife such as the coppercheek darter, agricultural production and the people of Hickman County who recreate on the river.

This is not the first issue faced by the Duck River in recent years. In 2021, a new water intake facility was planned to be built on the Duck River in Marshall County. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) issued a permit limiting the amount of water the facility could pump out of the river during low water levels. Multiple organizations appealed the permit in an attempt to remove those limitations, but a settlement was reached in May 2022 to keep the limits in place and continue research on the Duck River’s wildlife and habitat.

In addition, several other water utilities along the Duck River have plans to increase water withdrawals from the river to mediate growing populations. But this is not an isolated issue.

According to TDEC’s Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, less than half of Tennessee’s rivers have been assessed. Of these, 28 percent are considered impaired, meaning they are polluted or their flow is impacted and they are not supporting their designated uses.

As the population continues to grow, the impacts on Tennessee’s water sources could be vast. Since people and cities are not the only ones relying on this water, it’s time for a new approach.

Regional growth is good for the economy, but if not done responsibly it will have detrimental impacts on the lands, water and wildlife that draw many people to Tennessee in the first place. Adjusting to this growth requires planning that takes all voices and potential outcomes into consideration.

The fact is, the systems currently in place are not sufficient to conserve our natural resources. It’s time to get creative, think outside the box. Developers, resource managers, conservationists and community leaders need to work together to come up with innovative solutions that meet the needs of all involved. We cannot view discharge permits or other proposed changes as individual actions, but rather must think about the collective impacts.

The proposed sewage treatment plant in Hickman County won’t solve the uptick in wastewater disposal needs of neighboring counties. It will just pass the problem along to a more rural county and damage an essential resource of that county in the process.

It is not enough to find a quick, temporary fix to a city’s water sourcing or treatment problems. Adding new facilities, water lines, effluent locations and other measures has impacts beyond that location. The one guaranteed thing is that water does flow, and that means anything put into the water at one spot is going to make its way through the landscape.

Population and infrastructure change over time. Tennessee’s water resources, and the tools to protect them, will need to continue to change with them. Every action taken today will have impacts down the road. Sustaining these vital resources requires collaborative planning and consistent reevaluation to ensure no waterway is depleted or neglected.

The health and abundance of Tennessee’s waterways is worth taking the time and resources to plan and monitor regularly. The quality of life and economic viability of each region of the state depends on it.

Hickman County Times: Letters to the Editor – What kind of growth do we want here? (2/13/2023)

It is my great hope that we, the citizens of Hickman County, and especially our commissioners and county leaders, will carefully consider the long-term ramifications of the Water Authority of Dickson County being permitted to build a sewage treatment plant here in our beautiful county.

Some stated that this will provide a tool for much-needed “growth” in the county and that “growth is coming whether we like it or not.” It’s true, growth always will (and should) be a part of any community. If we’re not growing, we’re dying. The question is, what kind of growth do we want? And have we considered what this proposed growth will look like five years from now? Ten? Twenty?

My husband spent his life in Fairview and is fond of saying “four generations on the same piece of dirt.” I grew up in the Northeast and moved many times throughout my life but when I arrived in Tennessee, I knew I was finally home to stay. We planned to live, retire, and die on that “same piece of dirt.”

Fairview managed its water for years but ceded control to the WADC shortly before we built our home on family land. One of the first hurdles we encountered was the requirement to tap into the water and sewer systems. This was not optional and added a burdensome expense on top of already staggering building permit costs. We had available septic but were told that was not permitted due to the “available” sewer lines.

Have we considered the human cost of this “inevitable” growth for Hickman County? Sure, some will win, mainly developers, but some who have called this home for decades will lose, possibly everything. Some will be forced out by rising costs of living and higher taxes, and others will lose property to eminent domain.

In that brave new world, must we simply accept that some are “haves” and some will be “have nots?” Is this just the way things were meant to be? Are we prepared to say goodbye to our neighbors and friends for the sake of growth and progress?

Centerville is named a “Nashville’s Big Backyard” community, “a natural watershed region anchored by 100 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway and made up of 12 connected communities with populations under 5,000 people.” It is significant to note that Dickson, Fairview, Spring Hill and Franklin are not on this list. They may have fast-food chains and big-box stores, but they don’t have what we do — unspoiled land and pristine waters — and, more importantly, they never will again.

Just because we desire a rural lifestyle does not mean we don’t want to see growth and progress. We want sensible growth that is thoughtfully planned and takes into consideration all our neighbors, their concerns, and protects them in their homes and on their land.

I often tell people we live “20 minutes from everywhere.” No, we don’t get to make a quick run to the store if we are out of bread or milk, but it’s okay because we knew this going in. We willingly chose this life. We chose what some consider “less convenient.” It’s funny how convenience always seems to end up not quite so convenient.

“Took me over an hour to get home today and I sure miss Sally, but have you been to the new Starbucks yet?” No, thanks. We have other places in town already with much better coffee, where the proprietors are neighbors and friends that we care about.

Sure, we can’t order tacos at 1 a.m. and have them delivered to our door but I can sit on my porch and not hear a car for hours. We have peace, and for many of us, it is a far more valuable commodity.

We left Fairview seven years ago because “growth and progress” turned it into a place we did not recognize. It’s time to dig deep and look at the true cost of convenience and growth because the decisions we make now will forever change Hickman County, and perhaps not for the better. Change is inevitable, yes, but what kind of change do we seek?

Do we really want communities slapped up by developers who will be gone before the dust settles? Do we want to look like everyone else? Hickman is a wonderful place with a lot of creative energy. We are capable of meaningful economic growth without resorting to cookie-cutter housing that stresses our infrastructure and obliterates everything unique about our community.

In a recent opinion piece in The New York Times, Margaret Renkl writes: “There is no simple way to banish the ennui of our age, but maybe it would help if we stopped looking at our own faces and turned instead to documenting the vanishing natural world in all its manifestations. Perhaps that change would change us in more essential ways, too. Would we finally learn to love the magnificent planet we were born to inhabit? Would we fight to save it?”

We can start by protecting our corner of it.


Hickman County Times: Open-records petition filed vs. WADC (2/6/2023)

A petition, filed in Dickson County Chancery Court, claims that Water Authority of Dickson County has denied a public records request from Rodes Hart and Friends of Lick Creek, and asks a judge to order compliance under the state’s public records act.

Filed on January 30, the petition claims that it sought documents pertaining to the utility’s Lick Creek wastewater proposal, including any studies and proposals dating to 2015; and its study to provide wastewater service to the three-school East Hickman school campus in Lyles. The requests which offered to pay up to $2,000 for copies, was made November 4.

Lick Creek area residents and landowners, including Hart, have mounted a campaign against the utility’s plan to construct a wastewater treatment plant near Lick Creek and Highway 7, and release treated effluent into it. An application for the project was filed with the state more than a year ago; no decision has been made.

According to the Tennessee Public Records Law, government — including utilities controlled by local governments, which include WADC — must respond within seven working days. WADC’s response to the request came on December 2.

That response by the utility says it “provided what we believe complies with your request” on the Lick Creek project; and that “most” of the documents regarding the sewer line to the East Hickman campus had been provided to the Hickman County Legislative Body.

Hart and the Lick Creek group say in the petition that they received “a limited set of records” on December 2, though “only 35 documents, some of which were duplicates,” and claim that the response is incomplete and exceeded the “seven working day” requirement for response.

WADC’s response says most of the documents requested are on the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation website. Hart and the Lick Creek friends.

Hart and Lick Creek claim that WADC “willfully denied” their request by not providing all documents from its own files, regardless of whether they were available from another source.

Hart and the friends group expected, according to the petition, to receive “notes, drafts and internal communications and other preliminary documents” related to the two projects in Hickman County, as far back as January 1, 2015 on the Lick Creek project. Correspondence with county commission members or consultants were requested as well.

WADC “does not have any knowledge” of correspondence, its attorney told Hart and the Lick Creek group.

The petition asks a judge require that WADC appear in court to answer the petition, and require that copies of “the requested records,” also award attorney fees and costs relief.

A court date had not been set as of February 1.

Tennessean: The latest in the battle over a pristine Tennessee creek? A public records lawsuit. (2/2/2023)

Angele Latham

Nashville Tennessean

A sign reading "Save Hickman" rests outside a home along Beech Valley Rd. Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 in Primm Springs, Tenn. Hickman County residents are concerned about a proposed plan for the Water Authority of Dickson County to build a wastewater treatment facility in eastern Hickman County that would dump treated wastewater into Lick Creek.
  • 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.

Hickman County resident Bucky Knecht spends time at Lick Creek with his dog Feather Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 in Primm Springs, Tenn.  Knecht and other Hickman County residents are concerned about a proposed plan for the Water Authority of Dickson County to build a wastewater treatment facility in eastern Hickman County that would dump treated wastewater into Lick Creek.

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.

A sign reading "Save Lick Creek" rests outside a home along Beech Valley Rd. Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 in Primm Springs, Tenn. Hickman County residents are concerned about a proposed plan for the Water Authority of Dickson County to build a wastewater treatment facility in eastern Hickman County that would dump treated wastewater into Lick Creek.

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.

The USA Today Network – Tennessee’s coverage of First Amendment issues is funded through a collaboration between the Freedom Forum and Journalism Funding Partners.

Have a story to tell? Reach Angele Latham by email at alatham@gannett.com, by phone at 731-343-5212, or follow her on Twitter at @angele_latham.

WKRN: Mt. Juliet farm spared from road project, other residents share concerns (1/25/2023)

WILSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Long-time Mt. Juliet farmers Bill and Andy Ligon are breathing a sigh of relief after the city’s Board of Commissioners passed a resolution, ultimately shooting down a proposal to put a road through their property.

The father and son said the project would have put a road directly in the middle of their hayfield, disrupting their farm’s entire operation. They told News 2 their ancestors settled the land in the 1700s, before Tennessee was even a state. 

“Since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to be able to continue the heritage, continue the legacy, and continue to be a farmer,” seventh-generation farmer Andy Ligon said.  

The Western Connection Project, currently in the planning stages, aims to help alleviate traffic on Mt. Juliet Road and create north-south connectivity for the city. Two of the project’s proposals looked at placing roads through the Ligon’s farm. Ultimately, this week, commissioners decided to opt for the proposal’s third option — widening South Greenhill Road to alleviate traffic, instead.  

“That’s my heart and soul, is farming and is agriculture, and being able to continue farming, I can’t ask for anything else,” Andy said. 

However, growth is a give and take for Mt. Juliet residents. According to Public Works and Engineering Director Andrew Barlow, widening South Greenhill Road would have varying levels of impact on more than 40 homes.

Any property needed for the project could be obtained through eminent domain, according to Mt. Juliet Public Information Officer Justin Beasley. Property owners would get at least market value, if not more, for the room needed to expand South Greenhill Road.  

Destinee Smith lives with her grandmother, Linda, along the route, and said they’d like to hold on to their inherited property, just like the Ligons.  

“You can’t put a price on something that’s priceless, on something that means a lot to us, no matter how small of an amount they take,” Smith said. 

Andy started putting out a cry for help on Christmas, asking the community to speak up and submit comment cards for the project, hoping to save his family’s farm.  

“I had no idea that this many people cared,” Andy said. “So it’s amazing to see just the heart of what Tennessee has and the citizens have for family farmers and local farmers.” 

His dad hopes the resolution will stick.  

“The bitter part is this was a resolution, meaning it’s nonbinding. This commission, or any other commission in the future, before the road is built, can change their mind,” sixth-generation farmer Bill Ligon said. 

Beasley told News 2 the Board of Commissioners listened to the concerns of Mt. Juliet residents and responded through their resolution. 

“Many people were concerned about the farm, and our Board of Commissioners certainly expressed that as well, and now you’re seeing a follow-up to the story that’s much different and I appreciate Channel 2, and specifically you, for reaching out to update people that are at home,” Beasley said. 

The City of Mt. Juliet hopes to include the Western Connector project in its next fiscal year’s budget, which begins in July.  

Beasley stressed that the project is still in the very early planning stages and will likely take years to complete. However, he said, infrastructure is the city’s number one priority, and the city wants to get the project started as soon as possible.