Tennessee town gets violation notice for chlorine discharge

Published 8:29 am Tuesday, December 10, 2019

JOHNSON CITY (AP) — Johnson City is taking action after discovering that its water treatment plant was dumping chlorinated water into Brush Creek and the Watauga River, killing fish, crustaceans and salamanders.

The city reported the discharge on Nov. 5, the same day a landowner complained to the state that foaming chemicals were killing wildlife downstream from the plant. They discovered that pipes installed in 2017 were sending chlorinated water into a storm drain instead of the sanitary sewer system, The Johnson City Press reported.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Nov. 26 notice of violation said no live fish, crustaceans or salamanders were observed in a 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) stretch of waterway below the discharge. The moss and algae also were dead and the floor of the waterways appeared bleached.

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A landowner had reported to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency they smelled chlorine and saw dead fish on the Watauga River. The city reported what it called a “foaming incident” on Brush Creek the same day.

The water and sewer services department has been evaluating processes at its Watauga Water Treatment Plant since the incident, city officials said Friday.

The agency is working with the city on a restoration plan for Brush Creek and the Watauga River, Environment and Conservation Department spokeswoman Kim Schofinski said.

The city will respond to the agency’s notice of violation by the end of the month with a plan for next steps, officials said.