MUD will pay $3,753 in TDEC penalties for nine violations

page one of the TDEC Director's Order
On June 7, TDEC served the Metro Moore County Utility Department with a Director’s Order that alleged nine violations and assessed over $18,000 in penalties. On Tuesday, they voted not to appeal and instead move forward with rapid compliance in exchange for a lower fine. (A Lynchburg Times Photo)

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — Based on the recommendation of MUD attorney Michael Wall, the three members present at Tuesday’s Metro Utilities Department Board meeting voted to not appeal a Director’s Order from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and move forward with compliance instead.

In a June 7 letter, TDEC notified MUD of civil penalties totaling $18,765 for multiple unanswered violation inside the Metro system. All the violations occurred under former MUD Director Russell Sells and the certified letter notifying MUD of the violations was addressed to former MUD Board Chair Keith Moses.

According to the notice of violation, MUD would owe $3,753 in penalties regardless of Board action but could avoid the remaining $15,012 if they complied with the order quickly.

According to a copy of the civil suit The Times has obtained, these violations included:

1) Failing to properly monitor for “the SOCs Atrazine, Simiazine, 2,4-D, and Alachlor during the April through June compliance period in 2022.” Those compounds are used in herbicide.

2) Failing to monitor for nitrates within the 2022 compliance period. Nitrates are common components in fertilizer.

3) Failing to collect the proper number of bacteriological samples for the monthly compliance period of August and September of 2020 and February of 2023.

4) Failing to perform residual disinfectant monitoring as the result of failing to take sufficient total coliform samples in August and September 2020, and February 2023. Coliform bacteria can be indicators of low sanitary quality in food, milk, and water. They are usually present in large numbers in the feces of warm-blooded animals such as cattle.

5) Failing to include violations in the 2020 Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) for incomplete total coliform monitoring for August and September 2020. State law requires MUD to publish an accurate CCR each year and it’s typically available on their website.

6) Failing to perform disinfection byproducts monitoring for TTHM and HAA5 in accordance with the Systems’s Division-approved plan. TTHM and HAA5 are both disinfectants used in the treatment of water to kill disease-causing microorganisms such as chloroform.

7) Failing to install duplicate pumps at the Coy Hill Pump Station. All water systems with more than 50 connections must install duplicate pumps for raw water, finished water and distribution pumping stations.

8) Failing to properly maintain the tube settlers to keep them free from sediment at the Metro Water Plant.

9) Failing to properly sample for bacteria for the new line extension.

During the meeting MUD Attorney Wall recommended that the Board not appeal the state findings and instead focus on compliance.

“If you try it fight this, the cost would exceed any benefit of getting part of it overturned,” he explained to the Board via cellphone. “That is assuming you have basis to overturn. Cost benefit doesn’t favor an appeals hearing.”

Wall stated that he’d also spoken to Moore County Attorney John T. Bobo, who concurred with Wall’s opinion.

“This order details issue going back a long way,” Wall explained to the Board. “They are saying this is enough. You’ll earn goodwill with the state by taking fast and corrective action.”

Wall also stated that he’d write a letter to TDEC officials asking for an extension and providing a plan for adding duplicate pumps at the Coy Hill Pump Station.

“Based on supply chain and other factors, that seems like a tight deadline,” he stated.

The Board voted unanimously to move forward with compliance and pay the $3,753 penalty. •

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