(Nashville, TN) Two months after Chancellor Ellen Lyle ordered a stay to prevent operation of the Spencer sewage treatment plant a settlement has been reached to prevent discharge of treated wastewater into the protected Dry Fork Creek in Van Buren County, TN. The stream and the underlying cave system, Rumbling Falls, have been at the center of a battle regarding wastewater discharge and the protection of Tennessee’s natural resources.

The agreement reached between environmental groups, the State of Tennessee and the City of Spencer prevents any discharge to Dry Fork Creek and requires the State to hold mandatory meetings with the environmental coalition during the next 90 days to craft changes to rules and procedures administered by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The meetings will focus on public participation during the environmental review process and improvements in the classification and protection of streams throughout the state.

John Noel, a board member for the Tennessee Environmental Council and coordinator of the coalition of environmental groups, stated his satisfaction with the settlement, “We were able to protect a high quality stream and a globally significant cave system. That’s quite a victory. In addition, we know the wastewater now will be as clean as possible.”

The Nashville Grotto was instrumental in the decision. Grotto Chairman Bill Overton said, “Most folks don’t know what an incredible system of caves we have in Tennessee. I’m very glad this settlement will protect the Rumbling Falls Cave system, which may be one of the most significant in the country.”

“We’ve taken a step to protect high quality streams in this state from degradation. We think this agreement will change the way the state does business when it comes to discharging wastewater into streams,” added Daniel Boone, representing the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association.

Judge Barbara Haynes directed the mediated settlement. For the past two years numerous groups have joined the effort to protect Dry Fork Creek, including the Nashville Grotto, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Sierra Club, Tennessee Environmental Council, Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association and the World Wildlife Fund.

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