The Blount Countian reported in June that Tyson Foods, Inc. applied to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for a permit to increase its discharge of treated water from the Blountsville processing plant and to change the discharge point from Graves Creek to directly into the Locust Fork River. The original application called for the discharge to be near King’s Bend Scenic Overlook at the old bridge on U.S. 231 in Cleveland. The discharge point was later amended to a location about 1.5 miles upstream from the overlook.
Tyson’s proposal was met with concern by many in the community, including members of the Friends of the Locust Fork River. A number of written comments were submitted to ADEM in opposition to the plan. FLFR and officials at the Black Warrior River Keepers petitioned for a public hearing.
A meeting between members of FLFR, county commission chairman Chris Green, and Tyson officials from Arkansas ended with a decision by Tyson to forego the proposed plan. A letter to FLFR members dated June 21 from Kevin J. Igli, Tyson senior vice president of sustainability and chief environmental officer, said the company will file a statement with ADEM saying “the facility does not intend to move the discharge point from its current location.”
That letter was in addition to an earlier email statement to The Blount Countian by Tyson spokesperson Derek Burleson. That statement said, “Our application with ADEM is part of a standard process seeking the renewal of our existing wastewater treatment permit for the Blountsville facility. There is no increase to treatment capacity or production associated with the application. Our original request to ADEM for the ability to change the location of discharge will be withdrawn due to feedback from local officials.”
The application process did not end, however, and ADEM has informed members of FLFR that a public hearing will be held soon, although a date and location have yet to be selected, probably somewhere in the county in October. FLFR members are still concerned about the possibility of Tyson changing its direction again and proceeding with the plan to discharge directly into the river.
FLFR members are requesting anyone who has concerns about Tyson’s plans to come to the public hearing and speak. They also request letters be submitted to Maria Brindle at firstname.lastname@example.org. The letters do not have to be confined to technical and/or scientific reasons of opposition. They can also simply state how residents benefit from a clean Locust Fork River. Sam Howell, a founding member of FLFR, said, “People can just express their opinions from their heart.” Photographs of wildlife along the river, as well as people enjoying themselves are also requested. The letters and photos will be compiled and submitted at the hearing.
Tyson’s application can be viewed on ADEM’s website at www.adem.state.al.us/newsEvents/notices/jun19/6npdes2.html. Public comments can still be made through this site until the day of the hearing.