Tag Archives: Clinch River

Roane County Environmental Review Board 

{by Mary Anne Koltowich}

Our Roane County Environmental Review Board (RCERB) was established in 1989 by Roane County Commission Resolution #1975. Under Resolution #03-11-12 purpose/responsibilities of this Board was clarified as “WHEREAS it is helpful to have a committee of qualified individuals to serve as an advisory group to study matters referred to it by the County Executive and the County Commissions, having the power only to make recommendations to the County Executive and the County Commissions after studying said matters.” The RCERB is authorized by the County Commission to be comprised of “five (5) to seven (7) general members and one (1) to two (2) student members, which shall be appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Commission”. Currently, the RCERB has seven (7) appointed volunteer general members and no student members. In addition, a representative from the County Executive and a representative from the County Commission interface with the RCERB. Its appointed volunteer members represent a broad professional knowledge experience base of technical and scientific knowledge, education, skills, and hands-on experience in a cross-section of environmental fields. This broad professional knowledge experience base covers the Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge Reservation activities, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) operations, aquatic ecology, remediation projects, hazardous/radioactive waste management, and chemistry – just to name a few.

The RCERB strives to maintain an awareness of environmental activities that affect or can affect Roane County. Some of the most intensive topics that members have been actively studying for the benefit of the Commission in order to provide recommendations include:

  1. A new DOE new hazardous waste landfill named the Environmental Management Disposal Facility (EMDF) has been proposed that would house materials from the demolition and remediation of multiple contaminated Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) structures/facilities. There is a formal dispute over this facility’s design and operational basis between DOE, the Tennessee Department of Conservation (TDEC), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The dispute primarily concerns protective measures in order to prevent the release of contaminated waters from the landfill directly into the Bear Creek watershed (surface and groundwaters). There is a related on-going contaminated wastewater discharge problem with the current landfill, named the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF), which has almost reached its capacity. 
  2. A mercury discharge into East Fork Poplar Creek that occurred at the DOE Y-12 facility in June 2018 which resulted in a large fish kill and continued over an extended (multi-month) period. Recent documentation indicates that fines for violation of groundwater quality regulations may be forthcoming as a result of this mercury release. This release is also related to the new proposed EMDF landfill where mercury-contaminated waste would be placed. There is increased concern over the proper handling of the mercury contamination constituent to prevent the creation of a potential new contamination source for releases into the Bear Creek watershed.
  3. The TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Coal Ash Spill has been the recent subject of legal action by site workers. Now there are concerns about the possibility of fly ash being present in and around the Swan Pond Sports Complex. The RCERB has been working with TDEC staff to develop and implement a sampling plan to test soils at multiple locations to determine if the fields and walking trails are safe for our community members and county workers.
  4. Non-native invasive aquatic plants are proliferating in Watts Bar Reservoir, along with several of the TVA river reservoirs. The County Commission named an Aquatic Weeds Committee that requested that a stakeholders group be formed to study the problem, research other affected relative bodies of water, acquire lessons learned from others with the same problem, and provide a report containing the needed information, research efforts, & recommendations as to how to proceed to address the problem. As a result, the Watts Bar Ecology and Fishery Council (WBEFC) was formed as a 501.c(3) non-profit organization a couple of years ago. A couple of RCERB members are also members of the WBEFC. The subject report was formally submitted to the Roane County Commission during its March 2019 meeting. The WBEFC is awaiting notification from the Commission as to a meeting to discuss this report. The WBEFC is also and just as importantly focusing efforts on preventing the migration of Silver (jumping) Asian Carp into the Chickamauga and Watts Bar Reservoirs.
  5. The TVA Kingston Fossil Plan Supplemental Environmental Assessment (SEA) was extensively reviewed with comments provided in relation to the expansion of the now used landfill to dispose of and store fly ash, bottom ash, and gypsum generated by the burning of coal.
  6. TDEC performed surface water sampling of creeks around Tiger Haven to determine the presence (or lack thereof) of e. coli bacteria that could affect the health of nearby citizens. Sampling has concluded, and a report from TDEC is in progress.
  7. The American Zinc Corporation (AMZ) has had a draft Title V permit in review with TDEC for the last few years. There has been a Public Meeting in the past with another one planned in April. The RCERB reviewed the recent permit update and provided recommendations to the County Commission. The Commission has accepted and forwarded the identified permit concerns to TDEC.
  8. TVA’s draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of almost 700 pages was reviewed with comments provided back to TVA and copied to the Commission. The IRP and EIS explore various strategies and scenarios about how TVA plans to meet the power demands of the future and to remain stewards of the environment.
  9. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has released plans related to permitting TVA to build and operate Small Modular Reactors (SMR) at the Clinch River site (previously the old “nuclear breeder site”). Plans are to build one or more 150-Mw nuclear reactor power plants to generate electricity. The NRC has approved an early site permit that allows investigation and preliminary design.

Each member of the RCERB expends many hundreds of hours on studying topics, performing online research, reading subject-related procedures/permits/regulations, attending public meetings to gather firsthand information, documenting feedback for public comment requests, and more each year. These services come at no cost to the taxpayers of the county and have saved taxpayers millions of dollars during the RCERB’s years of existence as a result of not having to hire outside consultants or establish a full-time staff to perform this work effort. In fact, RCERB input is now actively being sought by other outside area environmental groups and by state regulatory agencies. In the interest of public safety and environmental protection, the RCERB provides a very valuable function to Roane county government and its citizens. RCERB meetings are held monthly, open to the public, and public comments are welcomed.

TN Department of Environment & Conservation Grant

The placement of the above sign brings Roane County one step closer to the completion of the TN Department of Environment and Conservation funded grant project. This Emory, Clinch and Watts Bar Watersheds Habitat and Recreation Restoration Grant project totaled $457,000.00 to provide Roane County with accessible public docks, kayak launches, a boat slip, and land stabilization. Full story to come as the project is set to close in the next few months. (Pictured right: Ron Woody & Josh Lentz hanging a new sign at the Little Emory boat launch.)

Ron Woody & Josh Lentz

Planning Ahead for Roane County

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

The county has recently taken some progressive steps in planning the county’s future. If one feels that nothing has been accomplished we understand, but below the surface, work has been going on, plans have been formulating, and execution of plans have taken place and/or are ready to take place. So, what plans are we talking about?

First, I think more of our county leadership recognizes that Roane County is not an industrial mecca. As an industrial agent recently said, “More than half of our proposals are put in the waste can because we are in a high wage, low unemployment area and new companies do not want to compete for the workforce.” The high wage, low unemployment is due to TVA, DOE, and related contractors. Slowly, a shift in thinking is taking place. What are our county’s assets? Great climate, a beautiful water system of rivers in Tennessee, Emory and Clinch, and friendly cities and communities. Maybe investments should be made in our recreation and tourism industries?

The county has been putting plans together for years for recreation and tourism development and as noted in last month’s newsletter, has hired master planners to complete the process. This year the county is eligible for a $250,000 recreation grant but we must match $250,000 local funds. The county does not have $250,000 but has taken the needed steps in the 2020 Budget to secure a large portion. Further, the county is applying for Tennessee RiverLine 652 project from the University of Tennessee. More details about this will be discussed in a future article.

The county is further working with Legacy Park Foundation and the National Park Service as the Manhattan Project Historical National Park is coming online in Roane County.

New trail systems, (both land and water), a National Park within Roane County, new courtesy boat docks on the reservoir, enhancements to Riley Creek Campground, and other recreation assets are helping Roane County lay the foundation for a vacation, recreation, and tourism destination.

More to come…

Thomas N. Clark, One of the First Seven Commissioners

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

Thomas N. Clark, Sr. – Thomas N. Clark, Sr. was born 1763 May 5, probably in Scotland and died 1847 Oct 21 in Roane County. He married Susannah Randolph Payne (1768-1842). Clark was one of the first seven commissioners of Kingston of 1799. He was a charter member of Bethel Presbyterian Church in Kingston and a Trustee of the Rittenhouse Academy. He rented the ferry across the Clinch River at Kingston from an Indian named Doublehead for $600 per year. At that time only Indians could own ferries and toll gates into the Indian Territory which was West of the Clinch River at that time. It later became known as Clark’s Ferry. Clark’s “Big Spring” supplied the water of Kingston until the building of Watts Bar Dam. In many ways, he is considered the father of Kingston. He and his wife are buried in the Bethel-Kingston Cemetery.

Thomas N. Clark Sr.

 

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, November 2018.

John Muir on Roane County

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

John Muir, (1838-1914), was a well-known conservationist and naturalist. In 1892 he founded the Sierra Club and served as president until his death. Muir helped to establish the Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks. In 1867, he began what was called “the thousand-mile walk to the Gulf” collecting plants and passed through Roane County. The following is from his journal about his trek through Roane County:

“September 12 [1867]. Awoke drenched with mountain mist, which made a grand show, as it moved away before the hot sun. Passed Montgomery [which was the county seat of Morgan County at that time], a shabby village at the head of the east slope of the Cumberland Mountains. Obtained breakfast in a clean house and began the descent of the mountains. Obtained fine views of a wide, open country, and distant flanking ridges and spurs. Crossed a wide cool stream [which would have been the Emory River], a branch of the Clinch River. There is nothing more eloquent in Nature than a mountain stream, and this is the first I ever saw. Its banks are luxuriantly peopled with rare and lovely flowers and overarching trees, making one of Nature’s coolest and most hospitable places. Every tree, every flower, every ripple and eddy of this lovely stream seemed solemnly to feel the presence of the great Creator. Lingered in this sanctuary a long time thanking the Lord with all my heart for his goodness in allowing me to enter and enjoy it. Discovered two ferns, Dicksonia and a small matted polypod on trees, common farther South. Also a species of magnolia with very large leaves and scarlet conical fruit. Near this stream, I spent some joyous time in a grand rock-dwelling full of mosses, birds, and flowers. Most heavenly place I ever entered. The long narrow valleys of the mountainside, all well watered and nobly adorned with oaks, magnolias, laurels, azaleas, asters, ferns, Hypnum mosses, Madotheca, etc. Also towering clumps of beautiful hemlocks. The hemlock, judging from the common species of Canada, I regarded as the least noble of the conifers. But those of the eastern valleys of the Cumberland Mountains are as perfect in form and regal in port as the pines themselves. The latter abundant. Obtained fine glimpses from open places as I descended to the great valley between these mountains and the Unaka Mountains on the state line. Forded the Clinch, a beautiful clear stream, that knows many of the dearest mountain retreats that ever heard the music of running water. Reached Kingston before dark. Sent back my plant collections by express to my brother in Wisconsin. September 15 [1867]. Walked all day across small parallel valleys that flute the surface of the one wide valley. These flutings appear to have been formed by lateral pressure, are fertile, and contain some fine forms, though the seal of war is on all things. The roads never seem to proceed with any fixed purpose, but wonder as if lost. In seeking the way to Philadelphia [this was in Monroe County, near the Roane County line. It became a part of Loudon County in 1870], I was told by a buxom Tennessee ‘gal’ that over the hills was much the nearer way, that she always went that way, and that surely I could travel it.

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, August 2018.