Lawmakers demand town hall meeting on plans for Maury County mega waste site

The GOP legislators say they are ‘gravely concerned for the water supply for Middle Tennessee’

By: - September 26, 2022 6:01 am
A locked gate keeps trespassers out of the former Monsanto plant property in Maury County. (Photo: John Partipilo)

A locked gate keeps trespassers out of the former Monsanto plant property in Maury County. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Two Republican lawmakers are asking state environmental regulators to halt approvals for a large-scale trash recycling and incineration plant in Maury County on a federally designated superfund site where chemical weapons agents were once manufactured.

State Sen. Joey Hensley and Rep. Scott Cepicky, who each represent portions of Maury County, said they were concerned about potential impact on water supply — particularly the Duck River Watershed, a primary source of drinking water for the southern half of Middle Tennessee.

The legislators were also concerned about the lack of transparency involved in the state permit approval process, which gives the public no chance to weigh in on the plans to build a mega waste facility in their community, as first reported by the Tennessee Lookout last week.

“Our well-thought-out and considered actions before a decision on the land use could potentially help us avoid a Camp LeJeune or a Flint, Michigan scenario,” the lawmakers said in a letter to David Salyers, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Cepicky and Hensley said they were “gravely concerned for the water supply for Middle Tennessee” as a result of the proposed waste facilities. Hensley insisted that “a town hall meeting should be mandatory before issuing a permit for land use.”

A proposal submitted by Trinity Business Group would bring a tire-shredding facility, large buildings to sort and separate household and construction waste, and an incinerator to burn trash to the 5,300-acre site of a former Monsanto Chemical Company mining operation. For decades, the company mined phosphorous, produced fertilizer and — for a period of time — manufactured chemical warfare agents for the U.S. government.

Our well-thought-out and considered actions before a decision on the land use could potentially help us avoid a Camp LeJeune or a Flint, Michigan scenario.

– Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald and Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, in a letter to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

Parts of the property have been designated a superfund site by the federal government as a result of the hazardous waste left behind when the company ceased operations in the late 1980’s.

TDEC has granted the company a permit for its tire shredding operation, but three other permits are pending for the remainder of its planned operations, which include a proposal for a large incinerator to burn trash.

The permits submitted by the company, so-called “permits by rule,” do not require any public hearings or notice to the surrounding community.

“It is crucial to see if the evolving solutions are what the people desire for the county and the State,” the letter said. “It is imperative to hear Maury County’s voices on this vital issue.”

A TDEC spokesperson said Friday that state officials have met with Hensley, Cepicky and local officials about their concerns.

Kim Schofinski, the spokesperson, noted documentation about the project are publicly available on the state’s online database.

“TDEC will keep the public updated via their elected officials and by posting any additional relevant documentation received on our dataviewer,” she said.

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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism. Wadhwani lives in Nashville with her partner and two children.

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