Developer Turns Living Stream Into a Polluted Waterway
Tennessee Project Prompts Suit Notice for Clean Water Act Violations
Nashville — A shopping center outside Nashville has illegally destroyed wetlands, functionally killed two streams and failed to perform promised mitigation, according to a notice of intent to sue filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Tennessee Environmental Council (TEC). The 60-day notice is required before filing a federal civil suit under the Clean Water Act.
The controversy involves a shopping center in the Indian Lakes development in Hendersonville which relocated streams and filled wetlands. However, the developer, Halo Properties, failed to construct the relocated streams in a meandering channel, as promised, or plant trees to shade new channels. The result is an algae-choked ditch fed by fertilizer from adjacent vacant grassed land.
“These small streams and wetlands are critical to the protection of our drinking water supply. This project is a great example of why almost all of our urban streams are polluted in Tennessee and across the country,” said Dr. John McFadden, executive director of TEC. “In our opinion the permittees failed to adequately carry out on site stream restoration work and failed to make payments to the mitigation fund as required by their permit.”
- The stream relocations were of unnamed tributaries to the Cumberland River. Among the other legal deficiencies cited in the notice are –
- Causing one stream to have lack of flow below the roadway for a portion of its reach;
- Creating a dump of roof shingles in one of the streams near its approach to crossing under the downstream railroad tracks;
- Constructing at least three road crossings of streams instead of the two crossings described in the state permit;
- Failing to submit monitoring reports, obtain required permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and pay the Tennessee Stream Mitigation Program compensation for stream impacts, and
- The suit notice also targets illegal loss of wetlands in the filling and alteration of the streams.
“Besides the significant environmental benefits of wetlands, they provide communities protection against flooding,” stated Tennessee PEER Director Barry Sulkin, former head of enforcement for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation water pollution program, pointing to the disastrous 2010 flooding of the Cumberland River and its tributaries in Nashville. “This type of project leaves our communities more vulnerable to the ravages of floods.”
The failure of developers to follow through on their permit conditions to conduct mitigation has become a major focus of PEER throughout the Mississippi watershed. The PEER effort is called “Yes, Net Loss” to underline the broken promises that mitigation programs result in no net loss of wetlands.