US Nitrogen not fined by TDEC for August nitric oxide release; still investigating April incident

GREENE COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation says US Nitrogen will not face any fines for an August incident that sent an orange plume of nitrogen oxide into the air.

TDEC is still investigating a second incident where nitric acid vapor was released into the air last month from the plant in Greene County.

TDEC says it ran a series of tests to determine whether to fine US Nitrogen for the event that happened more than 8 months ago.

Michelle Owenby, Director of TDEC’s Division of Air Pollution Control, said it was no danger to the public.

“We’re confident that there was no effect on ambient air quality and public health from that specific release,” Owenby said.

She said TDEC ran models to determine if the air quality was impacted on August 23rd.

“In order to run a model you need not only the emissions data, but you need the meteorological data from the area,” she explained.

They ran a series of tests to determine if the national ambient air quality standard, set by the EPA, for nitrogen dioxide was exceeded.

“The impact was below and did not exceed the ambient air quality standard for nitrogen dioxide,” Owenby said.

In a letter to plant manager Andrew Velo, dated May 1, Owenby says because of that no action will be taken for that event.

Peter Higgins is part of a group called ‘Indivisible Greene County’. He says he’s upset US Nitrogen was not fined for the August incident.

“It seems a bit absurd to have an enforcement agency that isn’t willing to enforce and dole out fines for finable offenses,” Higgins said.

A second release happened on April 19th. Owenby says that incident is still under investigation.

“The day following the event we had our inspectors on site,” she said.

Higgins said he hopes to see us nitrogen fined by TDEC. “Do your job. Look out for the environment.”

“It’s unfortunate that they’ve had events,” Owenby said. “But we’ve taken steps in enforcement with regard to US Nitrogen where we believe that it’s appropriate and we will not hesitate to do so if necessary in the future.”

TDEC says it is unsure how long the investigation into the April nitric acid vapor release will take.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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