Monteagle Planning Hears Laurel Lake Pollution Presentation

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Sept. 15 Monteagle Planning Commission meeting, Monteagle resident and structural engineer Jim Waller gave a 15-minute presentation documenting a violation of city ordinance regulating storm water runoff and pollution of Laurel Lake, Monteagle’s drinking water supply.

Waller, who designed the drainage system for the Miami airport, pointed to a February 2022 TDEC (Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation) Notice of Violation faulting the RBT/Petro developers for inadequate erosion prevention, inadequate sediment control, and discharging sediment into the waters of the state. Waller showed photos and video of the RBT-site storm water collection pond full above the pipe transferring the water to the city’s storm water drains, water overflowing the site’s silt barriers flooding the streets, and tracing the path of the mud and silt laden water travelling to Hidden Creek and into Laurel Lake. “What’s coming with the truck plaza,” Waller said, “is 115 truck parking slots. This is going to provide a different source of pollution travelling the same path. There are 16 fueling stations and 10 acres of impervious pavement.” The site could shed 2 million gallons of water in a 24-hour rainstorm, according to Waller. “We must assume there will be oil and fuel spills that wash into the water supply,” Waller insisted. “The RBT site plan [approved by the planning commission] did not have any oil separators at all.” He cited a Monteagle ordinance which states, “All car washes, truck washes, garages, service stations, car and truck maintenance facilities, fabricators, utility equipment shops, and other facilities that have sources of sand, soil, and oil shall install effective traps, interceptors, and oil/water separators.”

Waller reached the end of his 15-minute time allotment without finishing his presentation and was not allowed to continue. Asked if the commission could discuss the information presented, Planning Commission Chair Iva Michelle Russell said, “We’re not allowed to discuss it because [the lawsuit against the town] is in appeal.” [See Messenger Aug. 5, 2022]

Resident Mary Beth Best, paraphrasing, cited an email from TDEC official Jennifer Innes stating, “flooding and drainage issues are for the city of Monteagle to address.”

Monteagle Alderman Nate Wilson proposed the town amend the ordinance governing building permit renewal. Currently, building permits expire after six months and can be renewed. Wilson recommended the ordinance be amended to “allow one sixth month extension, and after that, if no reasonable progress had been made in one year, the project goes back to the planning commission for further site plan approval.” Justifying the need for the ordinance, Wilson said, “If there’s no activity after a year, there’s time for the town to have different ordinances, and in this particular instance, we have MTAS working on a storm water ordinance for Monteagle … the town could ask for a new building permit.” Mayor Marilyn Campbell Rodman said, according to building codes inspector Earl Geary, the RBT/Petro building permit had been renewed. The commission will take up the proposed amendment at the Oct. 4 meeting.

In other business, the commission approved two ordinance amendments and recommended forwarding them to the council for approval: rezoning a tract on Catherine Avenue from Residential 1 to Commercial 2 and adopting the Accessory Dwelling Units provisions drafted at the Aug. 29 workshop.

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