Dickson County utility settles suit over sewage pollution

By: - September 9, 2023 3:18 pm
Trace Creek in Dickson County, Tenn. (Photo: Submitted)

Trace Creek in Dickson County, Tenn. (Photo: Submitted)

A public utility in Dickson County has settled a lawsuit brought by environmental groups over sewage pollution found in a small stream that flows to the Harpeth River, a key source of drinking water and recreation in Middle Tennessee.

The agreement between the state regulators, the Water Authority of Dickson County and the Harpeth Conservancy requires the utility to undertake cleanup efforts in Trace Creek and operational changes at its plant to protect the waterway from future pollution.

It also requires the utilty, the Harpeth Conservancy and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, or TDEC, to meet quarterly to monitor changes.

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“Trace Creek may seem small, but like all small streams it plays a big role in our river systems,” Grace Stranch, CEO of the Harpeth Conservancy, said in a statement. “We look forward to working together to restore Trace Creek.”

The pollution first came to light last Fall, when local residents along the Trace Creek began to notice putrid smells emanating from the water and slime collecting on its surface directly below a discharge pipe from the White Bluff Wastewater Treatment Plant. The slime-like substance continued downstream for several hundred yards. Testing later revealed the presence of algae and bacteria that thrive on untreated sewage.

In November, the Harpeth Conservancy and local residents — represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center — filed an administrative lawsuit with TDEC, alleging the utility was violating state environmental regulations and demanding it take immediate action.

“This settlement is a major victory for Trace Creek and the people who enjoy it,” said George Nolan, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The utility initially responded to complaints by issuing a statement that said the facility was breaking no rules and was regularly inspected. A message left Friday with the utility went unreturned.

The agreement, announced this week, does not preclude further legal action by residents or environmental groups should the utility fail to live up to its end of the agreement.






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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.