POLK COUNTY, Tenn. — Investigations are underway in Tennessee and Georgia after reports that the remnants of human waste are being trucked in Polk County, despite a county resolution last fall that prohibits that activity.
We're digging deeper after getting a tip from a viewer that biosolids and biosludge are being trucked to Copperhill Industries from Georgia.
Biosolids are organic matter recycled from sewage and are often used in agriculture as fertilizer.
But they also contain many harmful chemicals, including PFAS. That's a group of chemicals known to cause things like cancer. The federal Environmental Protection Agency announced new guidelines to limit PFAS exposure back in March.
On Thursday, a representative of Chattanooga-based trucking company Atomic Transport confirmed with us on the phone that drivers are delivering what he referred to as 'sludge' in their trucks to Copperhill Industries from Cobb County, Georgia.
Polk County Commissioner Samantha Trantham confirmed to us that Georgia environmental officials and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) are both investigating those reports.
In September of last year, Polk County Commissioners passed a resolution asking the state of Tennessee to stop all biosolid disbursement in their area.
Commissioners cited the county's "unique land situation" like land cracks from previous mining in that area that allows more water drainage runoff.
Read it below:
Copperhill Industries' website says they used to bring in biosolids from the city of Chattanooga in the past, in an effort to return vegetation to the land that was stripped because of the previous copper mining on the site.
But after public outcry about the smell and possible contamination of the land, the company withdrew their composting permit application in August of 2022. The letter below shows their request to do that to TDEC.
The Copperhill Industries website says "all shipments of biosolids have been suspended."
We reached out to Copperhill Industries for comment and are waiting to hear back.
But we learned, TDEC not only knows about the biosolids at Copperhill Industries, they are overseeing it.
TDEC says Copperhill Industries is engaged in a pilot project to remediate the historic mining site which entails processing biosolids.
TDEC says they are aware of the project and are helping oversee the process. They add that, because of the current condition of the land, no permit is required.
But without a public permit, which is available on the state's website, it makes it more difficult for those who live nearby to know what's going on at the company.
Read the full statement from TDEC below:
"Copperhill Industries is engaged in a pilot project to remediate the historic mining site which entails processing material from Cobb County, Georgia and converting it to a Class A/Exceptional Quality material (biosolids). TDEC is aware of the project and helping to oversee the process. Due to the remedial nature of this site, there are no TDEC permitting requirements at this time however all the substantive requirements that a permit may contain still apply. Denali Water Solutions is responsible for implementing the project and is the appropriate entity to speak to specifics about the process."
You'll recall we covered a similar story back in January.
Residents in Warren County raised a stink about biosolids from Chattanooga being used on farms there.
Depend on us to keep you posted.