The Tennessee Environmental Council, the Tennessee Conservation Voters, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Harpeth River Watershed Association, Richland Creek Watershed Alliance and Obed Community Watershed Association are opposed to legislation sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Tennessee as it would create threats to public health, cause additional flooding and urban water pollution, and increase costs to taxpayers in addition to a myriad of other water and quality-of-life related problems for Tennessee communities.
According to Dr. John McFadden, CEO of the Tennessee Environmental Council, the legislation (SB 1830 / HB 1892) is designed to take away communities’ ability to control how they work to restore their local streams. “This is a very big issue as most of our urban streams already have flood problems and are polluted. The homebuilders’ legislation would serve to make a bad situation much worse, by allowing more stormwater to flush like a toilet, carrying toxic pollutants and disease-causing bacteria directly into the streams we live by and our children play in.” McFadden added, “The homebuilders’ bill will effectively transfer the long-term costs associated with poor stormwater design and resulting flooding to the taxpayers of our communities.” “Efforts to roll back protections for Tennessee waters are inconsistent with requirements to improve the health of our waterways,” notes Anne Passino, staff attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Weakening requirements is not just bad for the health of our communities; it runs the risk of violating the law.”
Dorie Bolze, Executive Director of the Harpeth River Watershed Association (HRWA), stated, “The watershed conservation community, HRWA included, has worked with the development and homebuilding community for years developing cost-effective stormwater approaches for new development that both reduce flooding and enable vegetation to remove pollutants, most of which wash off the land with the first inch of rain. This legislation is not needed and really has the cart before the horse as the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is currently working on and inviting input on revisions to the state permit that provides the framework for stormwater management for cities and counties to tailor to their local conditions around the state.”
In addition, the homebuilders-sponsored legislation —
• Threatens public health in urban communities. Managing the first flush of stormwater is the best way to keep disease-causing bacteria and toxins out of urban waters where children play.
• Destroys urban streams and increases flooding. When watersheds become paved over, the land that used to soak up rain and storms becomes “impervious” and instead “flushes” like toilets when it rains. This washes pollutants into the water, causes severe erosion; destroys property, wildlife and critical habitat.
• Puts the burden on other regulated businesses and entities like sewer plants to remove more pollutants to compensate for the pollutants added to waterways from the homebuilding industry.
• Damages fishing and other recreational stream, river and lake use.