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.
and RODES HART
Friends of Lick Creek
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.
- By NANCY STEPHENS Main Street Fairview
- Feb 21, 2023
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.
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.
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.