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Clean water a vital resource that must be protected

Staff Report • Oct 18, 2013 at 9:03 AM

We applaud state officials for seeking an injunction against a drain cleaning business owner to stop his company from continuing to dump sewage near Brush Creek. As Press staff writer Becky Campbell reported in Thursday’s paper, First Judicial District Attorney General Tony Clark and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation filed the injunction this week against Julian Robert Combs doing business as Roto Rooter Sewer Drain Service. The lawsuit claims that despite a cease and desist order, Combs’ business has continued to engage in “underpermitted pumping and disposal of sewage.”In July, two of Combs’ employees, Charles Jones and Joseph Hiatt, were charged with dumping raw sewage at 922 Embreeville Road in Johnson City next to Brush Creek. Clark said the criminal action against the pair is ongoing.The injunction filed in Chancery Court refers to Combs’ actions as “causing harm to the public health and the environment.”Our area has had a recurring problem with dangerously contaminated creeks, streams and other water sources. The activities described in the injunction are just unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue.It is also a slap in the face to clean water crusaders like Bill Francisco, a Johnson City attorney, who is helping to educate the public on the dangers of E. coli. Francisco — who got involved with the cause after his 6-year-old son, Jacob, died in 2004 from complications of an E. coli infection — is among those now involved with the Sinking Creek Restoration Project, which is tackling a major source of E. coli here in Johnson City. Sinking Creek has been identified as “impaired water” by the state of Tennessee because of E. coli contamination.The source of this contamination is likely linked to stormwater/sewer and pasture runoff. This contamination can be eliminated, or at least dramatically reduced, with better pasture management and septic systems connecting to the city’s sewer system.We also need vigorous prosecution of individuals and companies who knowingly contaminate our streams. The injunction filed this week is a good start.

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