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"Can you say that again, please?"

By: Brian Haas, The Tennessean

NASHVILLE -- A Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy director warned a group of Maury County residents that unfounded complaints about water quality could be considered an "act of terrorism."water bomb

"We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously," said Sherwin Smith, deputy director of TDEC's Division of Water Resources, according to audio recorded by attendees. "But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there's no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism."

"Can you say that again, please?" an audience member can be heard asking on the audio.

Smith went on in the recording to repeat the claim almost verbatim.

The audio was recorded May 29 by Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, a Smyrna-based civic action group that had been working with Maury County residents to tackle water quality complaints in Mount Pleasant. Residents there have complained to the state for months, saying some children had become ill drinking the water. The meeting was organized by State Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, and attended by residents, TDEC and local officials.

TDEC said it was looking into what had been said at the meeting and that Smith would not be available for comment.

"In terms of the comments made by a member of the Water Resources Division at the meeting, we are just receiving the information and looking into this on our end," spokeswoman Meg Lockhart said. "The department would like to fully assess what was said in the meeting. I am told that the meeting was far longer than the audio clip provided by SOCM and that Mr. Smith actually clarified his remarks. But again, we are looking into it."

“You need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there's no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.”

The comment shocked and outraged attendees, who saw it as an attempt to silence complaints, said Brad Wright, organizer for SOCM in Middle Tennessee.

"I think it's just to quash us complicating life for them," he said.

Joycelene Johns, 68, has lived in Mount Pleasant off and on for about 30 years and has put up with cloudy, odd-tasting water for years.

"I'll drink it," she said, "but I pray before the first sip."

But she said Smith's comments had been harder to stomach than her drinking water.

"I was sitting there with my mouth open," she said. "I couldn't believe he was saying that." The message she took away was: "Leave us alone. Don't come back anymore. We're not going to continue on dealing with whatever problem you may have."

Butt, who organized the meeting, also was shocked.

"I think that we need to be very careful with how we use the words 'terrorist' and 'terrorism,' " she said. ”I thought it was out of context. That did not apply to anything that we were discussing at the meeting."

Butt said the water issue had been marred by "communication breakdowns" by both sides, which wouldn't be made easier with such inflammatory comments being made.

SustainAbility Newsletter Archive Article (random)

The Risks for Businesses Who Don

CokeThe concept behind sustainability is as simple as it is compelling: resources may only be used at a rate at which they can be replenished.

When most people see the word "resources," they think immediately of natural resources. But in order to thrive, businesses actually need three types of resources: environmental (e.g., natural resources), social (including employees, customers and general societal goodwill) and economic (money).

In fact, these three factors comprise a common definition of business sustainability: increasing short- and long-term profitability by holistically managing economic, social and environmental risks and opportunities.

This definition is relevant both in times of recession and during economic growth periods, because the main drivers of sustainability don't change. These three factors have been the drivers of business success since mankind has been engaged in business endeavors. While sustainability may seem to run counter to the profit-maximizing doctrine of running a company, the concept of creating sustainable business processes is increasingly seen as a key to long-term success. 

Organizations can work toward sustainability in many ways, but to be truly effective sustainability initiatives cannot stand alone. They must transform the organization as a whole. This takes individual and coordinated efforts from all segments of a company.

Look at Sustainability Strategically

Nike, Coca-Cola, and Nestle are examples of companies that go about this strategically. They have figured out that if you do not change the way you operate -- and the way your supply chain operates -- you're potentially putting your entire business model at risk. They know that risk encompasses more than financial risk. If a company loses its societal mandate to do business then it faces as much risk as if it were struggling financially.

Nestle understands that to continue making very high-quality food products requires a planet that can produce a reliable supply of natural products. Its "Creating Shared Value" approach focuses on specific areas of the company's core business activities -- water, nutrition, and rural development.
Coca-Cola has been very aggressive around water development and protection, both for agriculture as well as in communities. Although the company does not own farms, it realizes that it has "significant opportunities within its global supply chain to develop and encourage more sustainable practices to benefit suppliers, customers and consumers."

Nike, which relies heavily on globally outsourced manufacturing operations, is working to increase its focus on sustainable business and innovation. It is integrating the concept across its business strategies to create a more sustainable approach aimed at providing greater returns to the company's business, communities, contract factory workers, consumers and the planet.



References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:

Audubon Lifestyles

The International Sustainability Council  

The Reserve at Lake Keowee

The Old Collier Club

The Rim Golf Club




Energy Star 

The Village of Blume 

Taylor Properties Group  


National Geographic 

American Society of Golf Course Architects

The United States Golf Association (USGA)


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