Press Releases

TN Awards More Than $5.7 M in Loans for Water, Wastewater Infrastructure Improvements

Press release from the office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; November 1, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau announced today that two communities, one utility district and one water/wastewater authority have been approved to receive more than $5.7 million in low-interest loans for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements.

“Making needed infrastructure improvements to address drinking water and wastewater needs will benefit the health of communities and economic growth, and I’m pleased to see local governments taking advantage of this resource,” Haslam said.

The State Revolving Fund (SRF) Loan Program provides low-interest loans that help communities, utility districts, and water and wastewater authorities finance projects that protect Tennessee’s ground and surface waters and public health. Loans are used to finance the planning, design and construction of water and wastewater facilities.

Through the SRF Program, communities, utility districts, and water and wastewater authorities can obtain loans with lower interest rates than most can obtain through private financing. Interest rates for loans can vary from zero percent to market rate based on each community’s economic index. Loans utilizing the 2012 EPA grant funds include a principal forgiveness component for water and wastewater projects.

“The State Revolving Fund Loan Program is a key investment for local communities in maintaining environmental and public health, while preparing for future needs,” TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau said.

The Department of Environment and Conservation administers the SRF Loan Program for the state of Tennessee in conjunction with the Tennessee Local Development Authority. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides grants to fund the program, and the state provides a 20 percent match. Loan repayments are returned to the program and are used to fund future SRF loans.

The funding order of projects is determined by the SRF Loan Program’s Priority Ranking Lists that rank potential projects according to the severity of their pollution and/or compliance problems or for the protection of public health.

The loans announced today are:

Wastewater Loan:

  • City of Cowan (Franklin County) – The City of Cowan will receive $500,000 for a project that includes wastewater treatment plant improvements. The project will be funded with a 20-year, $400,000 loan with an interest rate of 0.17 percent and $100,000 in principal forgiveness that will not have to be repaid.

Drinking Water Loan:

  • Cordell Hull Utility District (Smith County) – The Cordell Hull UD will receive $500,000 for a project that includes replacement of the existing 100,000 gallon storage tank with a new 250,000 gallon storage tank. The project will be funded with a 20-year, $400,000 loan with an interest rate of 0.92 percent and $100,000 in principal forgiveness that will not have to be repaid.

Traditional Wastewater Loan:

  • Jackson Energy Authority (Gibson County) – The Jackson Energy Authority will receive an increase of $3,953,352 to an existing $5 million, 20-year loan which brings the total to $8,953,352 with an interest rate of 0.34% for a project that includes sewer system rehabilitation.

Traditional Drinking Water Loan:

  • City of Ridgely (Lake County) – The city of Ridgely will receive an $810,000, 20-year loan with an interest rate of 0.01 percent for replacement of two existing wells with two new wells.

Since its inception in 1987, Tennessee’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund Loan Program has awarded more than $1.5 billion in low-interest loans. Since its inception in 1996, Tennessee’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Loan Program has awarded more than $217 million in low-interest loans. Both programs combined award more than $80 million annually to Tennessee’s local governments for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

Any local government interested in the SRF Loan Program should contact the State Revolving Fund Loan Program, Tennessee Tower, 12th Floor, 312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, Nashville, TN 37243, or call (615) 532-0445. Additional information about the SRF Loan Program may be found online at

Press Releases

National Water-Safety Week Starts Monday

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Health; May 17, 2012:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Memorial Day is the traditional opening day of many public pools in Tennessee and the unofficial start of swimming season. While swimming is a fun way to be physically active, recreational water can also hold viruses and bacteria that cause illness. The Tennessee Department of Health joins in the annual observance of National Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week May 21-27 to help make sure residents and visitors have a safe and healthy swimming season.

“We want Tennessee families to enjoy time spent in pools, lakes and other bodies of water, and practice simple ways to reduce risks to health and safety,” said Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Taking proper precautions such as having babies wear leak-proof diapers and never letting children swim without supervision helps prevent injuries and illnesses that can be spread in water.”

Recreational Water Illness

Recreational Water Illnesses, or RWIs, are caused by germs in the water that are spread to people by swallowing, breathing in vapors of, or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs, fountains, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds or oceans. RWIs cause several types of health problems, including eye infections and irritation, hepatitis, wound infections, gastrointestinal illness, urinary tract infections, skin infections, respiratory illness, ear infections and even neurologic infections. The most commonly reported RWI is diarrhea. Germs on and in swimmers’ bodies end up in the water and can make other people sick. Even healthy swimmers can get sick from RWIs, but young children, elderly people, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are especially at risk.

“We can protect ourselves by not swallowing water from pools, lakes, rivers and other swimming places. Taking steps to keep germs out of the pool in the first place is also a great way to prevent RWIs,” said Rand Carpenter, DVM, a TDH epidemiologist involved in waterborne disease surveillance. “Everyone can help keep our swimming areas safe this summer by following a few simple healthy swimming steps.”

Don’t swim if you have diarrhea.

Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.

Take children on frequent bathroom breaks or check diapers often.

Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area, not at poolside.

Illnesses and outbreaks associated with recreational water vary from year to year. Worldwide, 5,000 children under the age of five die each day from diseases acquired from unsafe water, according to World Health Organization estimates. In Tennessee in 2010, 14 people including four who were hospitalized were sickened in an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 associated with a community swimming pool. Illness caused by cryptosporidium and other waterborne pathogens has been on the rise in Tennessee and nationwide. Any illness or outbreak that is possibly caused by exposure to recreational water should be reported to your local health department.

Drowning prevention

Drowning prevention is important to remember when going swimming. In Tennessee in 2010, 88 people died from drowning, including 25 children. Near-drowning incidents leave many others with long-term consequences including memory problems, learning disabilities and other permanent impairments such as physical disability. To reduce the risk of drowning:

  • Prepare by making sure:
    • Everyone knows how to swim
    • Older children and adults know CPR
  • When in the water, keep swimmers safe by:
    • Having younger and less capable swimmers use life jackets that fit
    • Providing continuous, attentive supervision of swimmers even if there is a lifeguard
    • Avoiding alcohol and drugs when swimming or watching swimmers
    • Discouraging horseplay and stunts
  • When NOT in the water, prevent access to the water by:
    • Installing and maintaining barriers including fences and weight-bearing covers
    • Using locks or alarms for windows and doors

Find more ways to prevent drowning, including specific tools for parents, online at

For more information about healthy swimming, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Healthy Swimming website at

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of those who live in, work in or visit Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit

Press Releases

Metro Water: We Won’t Cut Off Service

Message from Metro Water Services; May 4, 2010:

“There are rumors that Metro Water Services plans to cut off water service to its customers. This is not true.

“In response to the rumors, we are concerned that citizens are filling bathtubs, buckets and other containers. This reaction is placing a significant strain on our water supply. We ask all citizens and businesses to stop using water for uses other than drinking, cooking, hand washing, and other critical uses.

“Lawn watering, watering of plants, car washing, cleaning sidewalks and parking lots, and similar uses are not essential and need to stop until the water shortages are resolved.


Sonia Harvat

Metro Water Services”

Press Releases

State Health Assessment Of Kingston Ash Spill Site Complete

State Of Tennessee Press Release, Dec. 22, 2009:

Public Comments Accepted Through February 9, 2010

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health’s (TDH) Environmental Epidemiology Program, under a cooperative agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), has completed a draft health assessment for Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Kingston coal ash spill site and is accepting public comments now through February 9, 2010, it was recently announced. Both the 200-page assessment and a four-page fact sheet summary are available on the department’s Web site.

“We understand local residents’ concern about the potential health implications of the coal ash spill,” said Bonnie Bashor, director of the Environmental Epidemiology Program. “It’s the department’s responsibility and mission to protect the health of the people in Roane County. With this in mind, the department took very seriously the review and analysis of collected data to determine any health risks associated with coal ash exposure.”

Details about the department’s participation in a Roane County community public meeting to answer questions about the draft health assessment will be announced soon. The meeting is anticipated to be held in January 2010.

The fact sheet outlines the public health assessment (PHA) process and next steps, and lists all of the environmental data sets used in writing the PHA. The full public health assessment includes a summary, discussion, conclusions, recommendations and a public health action plan. Environmental data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), TVA and others are presented in the report.

Highlights of the conclusions reached in the report are as follows:

  • No harm to the community’s health is expected from touching the coal ash. Even though touching the coal ash could cause local skin irritation, the metals in the ash are not likely to get into people’s bodies from merely touching the coal ash.
  • Using municipal drinking water from the Kingston and Rockwood water treatment plants will not harm people’s health because the raw and finished water have continuously met drinking water standards. Also, using well or spring water within four miles of the coal ash release will not harm people’s health from exposure to coal ash or metals in the coal ash because no evidence has been found for groundwater contamination by coal ash.
  • Using the Emory River at the site of the coal ash release (near Emory River mile 2) could result in harm to residents or trespassers from physical hazards associated with cleanup efforts and from the volume of ash present, if residents or trespassers entered the area. No harm to people’s health should result from recreational use of the Emory, Clinch and Tennessee Rivers outside the area of the lower Emory River down to the confluence of the Emory and Clinch Rivers, as specified in the recreational advisory and river closure. As the advisory indicates, people are advised to avoid areas where they see ash, however, even if it is outside the area of immediate impact. Previous fish advisories should be followed.
  • Breathing ambient air near the coal ash release is not expected to harm people’s health as long as adequate dust suppression measures are in place. No harm to people’s health is expected from occasionally breathing coal ash if it should become airborne for short periods of time. If dust suppression measures should fail and particulate matter is present in concentrations greater than National Ambient Air Quality Standards due to the coal ash becoming airborne for periods longer than one day, the department concludes that particulate matter from airborne coal ash could harm people’s health, especially for those persons with pre-existing respiratory or heart conditions.

The draft PHA has already undergone government review by Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, TDEC, ATSDR and EPA to ensure the accuracy of the data and science used in the report. Also involved in the review of the assessment were the Tennessee Poison Center and Oak Ridge Associated Universities. The ATSDR has provided the report to three outside, independent reviewers for scientific peer review as well.

Comments must be submitted in writing. Submit via e-mail to or mail to:

Environmental Epidemiology Program

Tennessee Department of Health

1st Floor, Cordell Hull Building

425 5th Avenue North

Nashville TN 37243

December 22, 2009 marks one year since the coal ash spill, where a retaining wall failed at the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County, Tenn. More than 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash spilled from an on-site holding pond to cover more than 300 acres of surrounding land and water.

TDEC serves as the state’s lead agency to contain the immediate threat to human health and the environment. TDH continues to play a critical role in working with TDEC and assessing and ensuring ongoing public health protection. In the weeks following the spill, TDH went door-to-door to conduct a health survey and to share information with area residents. The department provided information to area medical practitioners. TDH operates the state lab that analyzes all the samples collected by TDEC, and provides health assessors to determine whether adverse health effects are likely based on the data.

On May 11, the United States Environmental Protection Agency signed an enforceable agreement with TVA to oversee the removal of coal ash at the TVA Kingston Plant. The state of Tennessee welcomed this action and continues to work in partnership with EPA to ensure the cleanup in Roane County is thorough and protective of public health and the environment.

For more information on the involvement of TDH in protecting residents’ health in the aftermath of the Kingston coal ash spill, visit For more information on the Environmental Epidemiology Program, visit the Website.

Education News

Education Group says State Drink-Vending Rules Too Strict

A rule designed to prevent children from gulping down too many liquid calories at school is having the impractical effect of banning all but bottled water in some campus vending machines, says the Tennessee Association of Middle Schools.

Currently, the state Board of Education, with input from the Department of Education and the Department of Health, passes regulations governing “nutritionally sound portion sizes” for food and drink products sold to students of middle-school age or younger.

The result has been that schools are prohibited from selling any drinks in containers larger than 8 oz., and it is preventing schools from selling juices — not to mention costing districts money in vending sales to children, complained Richie Stevensen, principal of Lake Forest Middle School in Cleveland.

Stevensen, testifying before the House Education Committee this week, said his school district, located about 30 miles west of Chattanooga, is losing out on as much as $6,000 a year in vending machine income as a result of the ban.

“We can’t sell an orange juice or an apple juice or anything because none of the manufacturers with the Minute Maid Corporation, PepsiCo, manufacture a product either 10 or 12 ounces,” said Stevensen, who also represented the middle schools association before the committee.

The state Department of Public Health opposes the proposal, saying that with one in ten Tennesseans suffering from diabetes, increasing portion sizes will weaken the state government’s fight against fat.

The smaller bottles help teach children portion sizes, says Nan Allison, a registered dietitian and lobbyist for the Tennessee Dietetic Association. Larger sizes mean an extra 100 calories a day or an extra five to ten pounds a year.

Nationally, 7.8 percent of people have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Tennessee’s rate is 10.3 percent, according to the Department of Public Health.

The Senate voted 30-1 in favor of its version of the bill back in March.

A minor political kerfuffle flared at the time after the sponsor of the legislation, Republican Sen. Dewayne Bunch, made a comment about “nutritional Nazi police on school campuses” during the brief Senate floor discussion.

State Democratic Party chairman Chip Forrester later seized on Bunch’s remark, calling it “the height of insensitivity.” Bunch later apologized and indicated he was merely channeling Seinfeld’s “The Soup Nazi” episode.