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.

Tennessean: Mt. Juliet’s need for traffic relief and history clash. Can family keep its farm intact? (1/17/2023)

Andy Humbles

  • Plans for a future road connection in Mt. Juliet conflict with city’s agricultural roots.

Sheep from Cloydland Farms graze next to Lebanon Road as automobiles zoom by, a daily illustration of past meets present on Wilson County’s west side.

In recent decades, both realities have co-existed in the bedroom community just outside of Nashville. After all, the farm predates Tennessee. Cloydland Farms was established in 1789, seven years before the Volunteer State became a state. The Cloydland property was deeded to U.S. Army Capt. John Cloyd through a Revolutionary War grant.

After a marriage with the Cloyd family, the Ligon family now operates the farmland, which remains a strong and active agricultural supplier.

“The farm doesn’t mean as much to me as my two children, but it’s awful close,” Bill Ligon, 72, said. “And you don’t sell your children.” 

Bill Ligon looks at a newborn lamb in the barn at Cloydland Farm in Wilson County, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. Hay used to feed the livestock is grown on land at Cloydland Farm that has been labeled as a possible route for a new road connection in Mt. Juliet. The family owned farmland dates back to 1789.

But the three Cloydland farms are in the midst of a continually evolving Mt. Juliet community with homes and businesses like Dollar General all around — a city that is seeking more roadways to keep up with traffic congestion as growth continues at a lightning pace. The scenario is common in fast-growing rural areas across the nation, forcing leaders and residents to make difficult decisions: improve infrastructure at the risk of impacting iconic local businesses or continue with foundational failures that irk longtime residents.

As Mt. Juliet leaders surveyed their community, engineers laid out a proposal: cut into a part of the Ligon farm off of Tate Lane, an area used to supply hay for the family’s livestock and other farms.

“I think everyone wants road and traffic improvements,” Mt. Juliet Mayor James Maness said. “For us, it’s finding what we can do that’s best for the community and trying to do the best we can working with people. We realize it impacts a lot of people and is not an easy thing to get through.”

No official actions have been taken or formally introduced, and city officials emphasized the initial proposals were to start the planning process and gather feedback.

More than 2,000 have signed an online petition to save the farm.

“The engineers were looking at a path we could take and looking at input,” said City Commissioner Ray Justice, who said he would not support a road through the Ligon farm. “Local input is don’t mess with anyone’s farm.”

Can the government take land?

In general, local governments enjoy eminent domain authority — as do utilities and railroads — to take land for the overall public benefit, Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesperson Rebekah Hammonds said.

“So long as the taking (of land) is for the public good, the taking is usually granted, leaving the only issue the value of the taking,” said Gino Marchetti, Mt. Juliet’s city attorney.

The price offered is generally based on market value, according to the Federal Uniform Act. Marchetti estimates 90% of property acquisition cases are resolved through an agreement on the monetary amount. But if an agreement on a monetary amount isn’t reached, the case can go to court for a decision.

The Ligon farm is not in the Mt. Juliet city limits but is in the city’s urban growth boundary, the Ligons said.

The city is aware portions of land involved in its initial study aren’t in the city limits. But Mt. Juliet wants to first look at different scenarios to benefit the entire area, said Andy Barlow, director of Mt. Juliet Public Works and Engineering. Annexation and property acquisition consideration, Barlow said, is “far down the line at this point and time.”

Fellow Commissioner Scott Hefner also emphasized that the planning process was still early and also indicated a desire to look at other options at a recent commission meeting.

“I have no interest personally … in subdividing active farms,” Hefner said at the meeting.

Eminent domain and property acquisition by the government

Eminent domain and property acquisition of private property is done by local, state and federal government to provide public services, according to Dennis Huffer, executive director of the Tennessee Municipal Attorneys Association, who has written a handbook on eminent domain for Municipal Tennessee Advisory Service.

“The more growth you have the more services you need,” Huffer said. “A lot of times it’s more roads, more water lines … more access to services that governments provide – sewer, electricity, gas and so on. It’s unfortunate but necessary.”

North of Nashville, Billy McCraw in Clarksville fought eminent domain which threatened to take approximately two acres of his 127-acre ranch, including parts of nine acres of strawberry rows.

There are a number of examples of government getting into property acquisitions:

  • A project to expand Rossview Road in Clarksville-Montgomery County has included plans to take a portion land at a popular strawberry farm through eminent domain. Owner Billy McCraw has said it would negatively impact the business.
  • Eminent domain was declared on property owners in Memphis for the proposed Byhalia Connection pipeline. Lawsuits were filed against landowners who wouldn’t sell. The Byhalia pipeline, which drew protests over concerns about health risks, including the impact to drinking water, was eventually canceled in 2021 by Plains All American Pipeline and Valero Energy Corp.
  • In 2022, a Missouri bill designed to expand protections for farm and ranch families in certain eminent domain cases was signed into law. The bill tries to tighten restrictions on electrical utilities being able to using eminent domain and has a measure that farm owners would be paid 150% of fair market value if land is taken through eminent domain.
Bill Ligon looks out as the sheep graze at Cloydland Farm in Wilson County, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. Hay used to feed the livestock is grown on land at Cloydland Farm, that has been labeled as a possible route for a new road connection in Mt. Juliet. The family owned farmland dates back to 1789.

Local governments seeking right-of-way for infrastructure is common. Hendersonville, for instance, has two city transportation projects that will need to acquire right-of-way and another state-managed project to realign the Walton Ferry, Old Shackle Island and West Main intersection that is currently in the process of acquiring right-of-way. 

Family farms in jeopardy

The Ligon farm off Tate Lane is about 67 acres within the approximate 250 total acres of Cloydland.

Only a few acres of the family farm would likely be considered for the road project, but Ligon and son Andy, 32, are concerned a roadway would create turns and triangles on remaining land, significantly diminishing production.

“It’s the highest yielding part of the farm,” Andy Ligon said.

The entire Ligon farm includes sheep, cattle and laying hens, said Bill Ligon, a former teacher at Westmoreland and Watertown high schools. The specific farm identified as the possible route for the future road is about 67 acres and is used to supply hay for more than 200 sheep and 35 cattle at Cloydland and is a provider for multiple farms in the area.

The decline of family farms as a whole and the impact on food costs should also be paid attention to, the Ligons say.

“If they keep closing family farms, factory farms will take over and they’ll charge whatever they want to … like the oil companies,” Bill Ligon said. “A lot of people have told me they ‘appreciate you not selling out.'”

Bill Ligon reaches down for a newborn lamb in the barn at Cloydland Farm in Wilson County, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. Hay used to feed the livestock is grown on land at Cloydland Farm, that has been labeled as a possible route for a new road connection in Mt. Juliet. The family owned farmland dates back to 1789.

Other road options

Discussion on the Western Connector has centered on incorporating, extending and realigning existing roads rather than developing one new through road from I-40 to Lebanon Pike as traffic continues to increase alongside the city’s growth.

The next steps would be to determine costs and other logistics, such as utility relocations and what right-of-way would be necessary, officials said. Plans are not final and development could be years in the future. The southern and middle sections of the future Western Connector could also be the priority, as the city anticipates a future Central Pike interchange off of Interstate 40 that is a TDOT managed project with a still unknown timeline.

Andy Ligon pets one of the hogs at Cloydland Farm in Wilson County, Tenn., Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. Hay used to feed the livestock is grown on land at Cloydland  Farm, that has been labeled as a possible route for a new road connection in Mt. Juliet. Ligon said they have been raising hogs since 1916.

One of the three plans for the northern leg of the Western Connector involves widening South Greenhill Road. Additional routes could also be considered as the city moves forward.

Reach Andy Humbles at or 615-726-5939 and on Twitter @ AndyHumbles.

Tennessean: Cities like Spring Hill are growing fast. Here’s why the boom is unsustainable. | Opinion (8/18/2022)

There is ample evidence that the U.S. population, 333 million and counting, is already unsustainable. Without a slowdown, the problems will only get worse, and our quality of life will decline.

James Bowen

Guest Columnist

  • James Bowen, Ph.D. is a nuclear physicist and environmentalist from Lawrence, Kansas.
  • Endless growth also threatens Americans’ quality of life.
  • The ever-increasing population has made the consequences of water shortages far worse.
  • The good news is that Americans want a more sustainable population.

Spring Hill, 30 miles south of Nashville, experienced the 10th-fastest population growth of any city in the country last year — and it was the only Tennessee city on the Top 10 list.

Plenty of other Tennessee municipalities are growing nearly as fast.

According to projections by the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the Volunteer State could grow by close to a million people over the next 20 years and reach a total population of 7.87 million by 2040.

This growth certainly brings some economic benefits, but it also comes at a severe cost to the environment and existing residents’ quality of life.

A growing population needs more water from rivers, reservoirs, and aquifers — as well as more land to grow food, more residential and commercial buildings, more roads, more landfills, more wastewater treatment plants, and so on.

There is ample evidence that the current U.S. population, 333 million and counting, is already unsustainable. And unless our leaders slow this ongoing growth, the problems will only get worse, and our quality of life will drastically decline.

Our nation is losing vital open space

Since 1970, the U.S. population has grown by 130 million, but our natural resources have only diminished.

Spring Hill aldermen candidates talked growth, development and infrastructure at a forum hosted by the city's chamber of commerce.

Even as per capita consumption has decreased, overall consumption has outstripped conservation efforts.

As a result, the U.S. lost 69,000 square miles of open space between 1982 and 2017, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s an area about 60% larger than the entire state of Tennessee.

Such sprawl destroys forests, meadows, and other wildlife habitats. This is a life-or-death matter for the species that live there.

It is also vital for the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of humans. Most people crave life in a world of biodiversity and natural wonders, not packed into high-rise apartment buildings cut off from any meaningful relationship with nature.

Moreover, worsening fire seasons are a consequence of increasing human activity in a fragile ecosystem. And it’s not just arid Western states at risk. We’re also seeing those consequences in Southeastern states.

The devastating wildfires that swept across Eastern Tennessee in late March were a grim reminder that all 50 states must heed the warning signs. Our increasing demand for electricity, fossil fuels, fertilizers, and plastics only exacerbate wildfires and other problems associated with global warming.

Unsustainable growth threatens our water supply

Endless growth also threatens Americans’ quality of life. Consider how water levels in Lake Mead, the massive reservoir that supplies drinking water and hydropower to much of the Southwest, just dropped to the lowest level in history.

So low, in fact, that folks have started finding dead bodies — likely the victims of 1980s-era Mob assassins from nearby Las Vegas  along the formerly submerged, now-uncovered shorelines of America’s largest reservoir.

Lake Mead isn’t an anomaly. Lake Powell, another massive reservoir, is also at a record low. Across much of the West, Americans face the prospect of severe water shortages.

The explosive population growth that the region has experienced in recent decades didn’t cause this water crisis, of course. But the ever-increasing population has made the consequences far worse.

Dependency on growth is a ‘Ponzi scheme’

Environmental advocates have been warning about the consequences for decades. Sadly, those warnings often fall on deaf ears in today’s growth-obsessed political environment.

But there was a time when our elected officials had a broader perspective. In 1981, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced the Global Resources, Environment, and Population Act, which would have made population stabilization a U.S. government policy.

More recently, in 2019, former U.S. Secretary of Energy and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu stated that an economy that is dependent upon population growth is a Ponzi scheme, since that growth cannot go on forever.

Steven Chu

The good news is that Americans want a more sustainable population, as evidenced by their choices to have smaller families. Birth rates among native-born Americans have been slightly below replacement level since 1972.

The Washington Post and other media outlets have decried what they call a “Birth Dearth” urging measures to encourage women to bear more children. This is pure folly as we should celebrate women’s advancements to control their reproduction.

James Bowen

The population has only kept growing because of historically high levels of immigration. If the U.S. government would simply, and humanely, reduce future immigration to the levels that America enjoyed during the middle of the 20th century, population stabilization would follow.

But, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, if we maintain the current rate of immigration, the U.S. population is “expected to grow by 79 million people by 2060, crossing the 400-million threshold in 2058.”

Put simply, that rate of growth is not ecologically sustainable. It’ll lead to fewer open spaces, increasingly strained water resources, the widespread loss of wildlife, and, ultimately, water rationing. If we continue ignoring this stark reality and sticking our heads in the proverbial sand, the only thing we’re likely to find are more buried bodies.

James Bowen, Ph.D. is a nuclear physicist and environmentalist from Lawrence, Kansas.

Hickman County Times: Lick Creek: waiting for a state decision (6/20/2022)

A closer look

June 20, 2022


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.”

Hickman County Times: Wake-up call about “forever chemicals” (8/22/2022)

Birth defects? Kidney damage? Breast cancer? The article about forever chemicals in last week’s newspaper was shocking, and a wake-up call for all of us to Save Lick Creek.

I did more digging, and learned that this year, the Environmental Protection Agency released new guidelines on “forever chemicals,” known as PFAs, mentioned on page B7 of the Hickman County Times.

The EPA said that there is no safe level of PFAs in water. In fact, any level of PFAs is dangerous to our health. For years, the EPA allowed these toxins to exist in drinking water in small amounts, but now we know that even small amounts can have damaging impacts.

The scary truth is that these chemicals exist everywhere! They exist in dirt that has been fertilized by sewer sludge, in firefighting foam, and in those oh-so-convenient non-stick pans. These chemicals can infiltrate our bodies and stay there for years.

I encourage all Hickman County residents to heed this wake-up call and do their own research on the dangers of PFAs and other harmful forever-chemicals. If the WADC proposal succeeds, we are opening the doors for forever chemicals in our water.

As the country and Hickman County learn more about these chemicals, we must ask ourselves an important question: How can we protect ourselves and our families from dangerous toxins being dumped in our county against our will?

Bon Aqua

Hickman County Times: Sludge in Maine is concerning (8/22/2022)

Last week, the Hickman County Times ran an article about a new ban on sewer sludge in Maine because of the dangerous “forever chemicals” that come from wastewater treatment plants.

I’m glad the Times is covering important issues like this, especially with Lick Creek still in jeopardy of being tainted with wastewater by the Water Authority of Dickson County. The WADC can claim their water is clean and drinkable all they want, but I’m not going to drink that water!

Save Lick Creek isn’t just about our creek in Hickman County or the people that live along it. It’s about saving Hickman County from the many harmful impacts of these toxic chemicals.

Do we want to protect Hickman County’s natural beauty, quiet way of life and health, or will we let these chemicals poison our county and our families forever? I am glad our hometown newspaper is helping us understand the seriousness of the issue and keeping us informed.


Hickman County Times: Fixing leaks better than building anew (9/26/2022)

Wastewater proposal

September 26, 2022

By RODES HART and AMANDA MATHIS Friends of Lick Creek

In a recent column, “Let reading infiltrate your weekend,” the editor of the Hickman County Times suggested that opposing the proposed Water Authority of Dickson County’s (WADC) new sewer plant in Hickman County could lead to a moratorium on new growth for our county.

He goes on to suggest one of the alternatives to building a new sewage treatment plant — fixing existing leaks — is not a viable solution and is a waste of money.

We respectfully disagree. This alternative (George E. Kurz Engineering Report — Sept 18, 2020) involves repairing the existing WADC system rather than building an entirely new plant in Hickman County. Fixing the problems with existing plants will certainly cost money, as will any project. However, fixing the existing plants will cost far less than building a new plant.

The WADC claims they need a new plant because their existing plants are over 90 percent of capacity, and more capacity is needed to support growth in Dickson and Williamson counties. The previously referenced study revealed that 61 percent of the water in the WADC plant is rainwater, not actual wastewater. If WADC fixes the leaks, the plants’ flow could decrease from 90 percent of capacity to less than 50 percent.

All that capacity is being wasted, along with the economic growth it could support. The question at hand here is why waste the capacity? Why build a new plant and take land from families in Hickman County to create capacity that already exists?

Think of it this way:

You need additional bedrooms in your home for family or guests to stay. However, you already have a three-bedroom house — a bedroom for you and two additional bedrooms that need a new coat of paint and some other repairs. Would you build two more bedrooms? Or would you utilize your existing capacity and simply repair your existing bedrooms? The choice is obvious.

Eventually, the WADC will need to fix their leaking lines. Will that be after they have spent tens of millions of unnecessary dollars on a new plant, or before?

To us, it is an easy answer. The WADC apparently never even considered this alternative in proposing the new plant as they are required to do. They have their sights squarely set on Hickman County.

The benefit of this proposed plant is not designed for Hickman County. Nearly all the projected wastewater comes from our wealthier neighbors, Williamson and Dickson Counties. This will result in 12 million gallons of treated wastewater per day being pumped into Hickman County waterways: Lick Creek, which leads to Duck River.

Let that number settle in for a moment: 12 million gallons per day is not a small amount of chemical effluent. Our water polluted, our land condemned and our way of life altered for a plant that does not even benefit the citizens of Hickman County.

We are certainly not anti-growth for Hickman County. We simply believe that growth and infrastructure decisions should be in the hands of Hickman County and be made in the best interests of its residents, its beautiful natural resources and its quality way of living.

Hickman County Times: Letter to the Editor – About the sewer line debate (12/7/2022)

I want to thank you for providing an outstanding local newspaper for Hickman County residents. We are fortunate to still have a local newspaper when so many are ceasing publication. I have often commented to friends and family that your editorship of the Times is a tremendous boost for our county. I cannot imagine a better weekly newspaper in Tennessee.

I read with interest your extensive coverage of the debate during the County Commission meeting of October 24th concerning Resolution 22-34, to extend WADC sewer lines to the East Hickman school complex. I have several observations.

With overall voter turnout at all-time lows generally, it is good to see some people still care about actions of their governing bodies and show up to voice their concerns. Your summaries of the public comments from citizens were complete and should be commended.

I do, however, have to take issue with one aspect of the coverage, notably in the “They act; we report,” opinion material.

It was stated that your goal was to correct misinformation followed by criticism of Amanda Mathis, one of the Save Lick Creek organizers, for saying that “it is abundantly clear that the WADC operates with a profit motive and they have very little oversight.” You went to some length to contact the Comptroller’s office to clarify they are not a for-profit business and do operate with some oversight.

She did not say they were a private for-profit company — just that they operate with a profit motive. WADC board members are not elected by the public and therefore not accountable at the ballot box. More importantly, the public water authorities are not like other government entities such as local governments.

For example, Hickman County and Dickson County governments operate within their jurisdiction. One county obviously cannot acquire a neighboring county. While technically a not-for-profit entity, the WADC can acquire other utilities to grow their business and expand service areas to increase revenue.

The more revenue they generate the more they can grow. This was part of the plan for agreeing to extend their service area to the East Hickman schools — and for the proposed Lick Creek treatment facility.

By contrast, you did not clearly question the inaccurate and misleading statements contained in the resolution itself, such as that the sewer system was not in compliance with the environmental regulations and requirements. A quick check on TDEC’s website would have determined that there was no compliance issue. It was noted that amendments were made to correct the misleading information but did not emphasize that those statements in the initial format of the resolution were clearly incorrect.

The Save Lick Creek issue was clearly related to Resolution 22-34. The complete coverage of the October 24th Commission meeting is appreciated by those supporting the efforts to preserve the integrity of Lick Creek and the overall Hickman County environment. Again, thanks for the long hours you devote to provide us a great local newspaper.


TN Lookout: Conservation groups file complaint seeking stronger oversight over wastewater plants (11/22/2022)


 Bacterial bloom in Trace Creek.( Photo: submitted)

This story has been updated.

Attorneys at Southern Environmental Law Center are pointing to a “massive” bacterial bloom as a sign that rapid development is overwhelming the state’s water resources. 

In September, landowners living near Trace Creek in Dickson County noticed a film of bacterial colonies forming on the waterway and alerted the Harpeth Conservancy, an organization dedicated to protecting Tennessee rivers. Organization members noted that the film was most likely caused by sphaerotilus natans, a bacteria commonly associated with raw sewage, and traced the problem to the White Bluff Wastewater Treatment Plant– located directly upstream from the creek.

 Discharge flowing into Trace Creek in Dickson County. (Photo: submitted)

If left untreated, bacterial bloom can grow rapidly and deprive the local ecosystem of oxygen. As for humans, a bacterial bloom indicates that sewage is being improperly treated and can lead to pathogens and other risks to human health, noted Grace Stranch, vice president of conservation and policy at the Harpeth Conservancy. 

The creek also flows into the narrows of the Harpeth River, “one of the most highly-recreated areas in Tennessee,” said Stranch. 

In response, SELC attorneys filed an official complaint on behalf of the Harpeth Conservancy to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Attorneys urged the department to impose stricter limits on the facility’s discharge permit and stop additional sewer connections until the problem is corrected. 

“Simply put, Tennessee regulators should not allow wastewater treatment plant operators to recklessly dump improperly treated sewage into our waterways,” said George Nolan, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The Water Treatment Facility of Dickson County later issued a statement that it conducts regular inspections and that the facility is in compliance with TDEC limits for  water quality. 

“While the letter submitted to TDEC regarding permit TN0020460 suggests Trace Creek appears to have a bloom of sphaerotilus natans, no testing has been conducted by the complainant to provide a factual basis for that claim,” said WADC Executive Director Michael Adams.

The bacterial bloom is also indicative of how rapid development presents problems that can overwhelm smaller sewage treatment facilities, according to SELC attorneys. Recent state data shows that an estimated 59% of Tennessee waterways are considered too polluted to support basic functions. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution – which can result from improperly treated sewage discharges – are some of the most common causes of stream impairment statewide.

The White Bluff facility– operated by the Water Treatment Facility of Dickson County–has a permit that does not include any numeric limitations on nitrogen or phosphorus discharges, according to SELC. The permit does prohibit certain wastewater discharges, and the WADC may be in violation.

“Until we have really good numerical limits for phosphorus, and nitrogen, we’re going to have issues where we will see the growth of these pathogens and algae growths,” said Stranch.

“It’s an issue across the state,” she added. 

Tennessean: We can grow responsibly and protect vital natural resources like Lick Creek | Opinion (12/2/2022)

The Water Authority of Dickson County needs to scrap its plans to pollute Lick Creek, Hickman County and the Duck River watershed.

Mike Butler

Guest Columnist

  • Mike Butler is the CEO of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation.

The Tennessee Wildlife Federation is dedicated to the conservation of our state’s wildlife and natural resources.

We are not opposed to growth, but we serve as the voice of reason and a statewide advocate for the conservation, sound management and wise use of our precious natural resources.

Across the state, but particularly in rapidly expanding Nashville, conserving those resources while still providing opportunities for economic growth becomes acute.

New and creative approaches are needed to ensure the health and abundance of our lands, waters, and wildlife.

Earlier this year, we worked with conservation partners at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and The Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to protect the Duck River, the most biodiverse river in North America, by upholding limits on the amount of water that a water utility district could withdraw.

Stakeholders must meet to solve water and wastewater treatment challenges

Currently, Hickman County, just west of Nashville, faces another threat to valuable water resources. The Water Authority of Dickson County (WADC) is seeking to build a new sewage disposal facility on Lick Creek in Hickman County.

Williamson County filmmakers Eyan and Ivon Wuchina produced a documentary about Lick Creek, a natural area in Hickman County, Tenn.

Lick Creek is designated as an “exceptional Tennessee water” by the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation. The proposed plant could discharge up to 12 million gallons a day, over 90% of which will come from neighboring Williamson and Dickson counties.

Both counties are rapidly growing alongside the expanding Nashville region, and it is incumbent upon the stakeholders engaged in the issue of Lick Creek to find a creative and more efficient approach to address our growing water supply and wastewater treatment challenges.

The Federation has numerous concerns about this project from specific issues surrounding the plant, to broader policy concerns:

  • State water law, and rules, require that applicants seeking to discharge into our public waters must show that the discharge will not degrade the receiving waters. At this time, we know of no analysis to verify this to be the case of Lick Creek and this proposed plant. If 12 million gallons a day of additional flow, that will include unregulated pollutants such as PFAS, does not degrade a pristine, exceptional water and fishing stream, then we are concerned that a precedent will be created that virtually no proposed discharge will be deemed to cause degradation; putting other rivers and streams across the state at risk.
  • Lick Creek is the largest tributary of the Duck River, the most biodiverse river in North America. If discharges from a new plant flow into the Duck, it will negatively impact an already threatened watershed. Allowing the WADC to have discharge flow to the Duck, by way of Lick Creek, adds another significant impact to a river that already is facing significant existing, and proposed new, water withdrawals.
  • Lick Creek is a treasured fishing and recreation stream for Hickman County residents and visitors. As middle Tennessee grows, the demand for water-based recreation is exploding. A new sewer plant of this magnitude, discharging up to 12 million gallons per day into Lick Creek will impact these uses.
  • The WADC has not been transparent with or listened to the concerns of Hickman County and its citizens. In fact, there is no Hickman County representation on their unelected board. Although the WADC had planned the construction of a new plant on Lick Creek for several years, they did not disclose their idea to the public. Instead, they posted a small sign with incomplete information about the project near a bridge along the highway. Fortunately, someone did notice the sign and started asking questions. The answers to date have been vague and the information now posted on their website is misleading.
  • The WADC stated that the water downstream of the outfall will be safe and clean, even suggesting you could drink it. This is nonsensical, and there are existing examples of wastewater discharges that appear to have led to degraded creeks.
  • The WADC failed to investigate alternative options to a new plant dumping discharge into Lick Creek. A 2020 engineering study showed that over 60% of the capacity of WADC’s existing plant is lost through leaks in the infrastructure. Why not fix what you have before building anew? They have also not seriously considered directing the outfall to the Cumberland River, a river with much more ability to handle the flow. Yes, it is further away from the service area, but they already have a water withdrawal line to the Cumberland.

Seek smarter regional solutions in cooperation with TDEC

We share the concerns of the residents who have come together to oppose the WADC project, protect Hickman County’s pristine waters and rural way of life.

Mike Butler

The WADC needs to scrap its plans to pollute Lick Creek, Hickman County and the Duck River watershed.

We call for the water utilities that currently use or seek to use the Duck River watershed for water supply and wastewater discharge to come together with TDEC and seek smarter regional solutions that can save taxpayer dollars and produce solutions that can ensure the health and abundance of our public rivers and streams.

Mike Butler is the CEO of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, one of the oldest organizations dedicated to protecting Tennessee’s wildlife and natural resources.