Residents’ well water contaminated by septic failure at Bean Station slaughterhouse

Investigations

Families near a slaughterhouse in Bean Station are using bottled water after their well water was contaminated by coliform and E.coli. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation says the cause of the contamination was the failure of a septic system from the nearby rendering plant.

Clean water is important to all of us, but two potentially dangerous strains of bacteria, fecal coliform and E.coli, were found in well water along Helton and Lakeshore Roads not far from Southeastern Provision in Bean Station

Coliform bacteria appears naturally in the intestines of animals and humans. However, these organisms are not naturally present in groundwater. When well water test results showed conclusively these harmful organisms were present at two churches and five homes, the Department of Environment and Conservation took quick action. 

Dean Taylor is one of the people in Bean Station who received bottled water from the state on March 2. He was told not to drink water that came from his well because it was potentially contaminated and could make him sick.

As a result, Taylor was given bottled water to use for cooking, washing food and brushing his teeth.

“The state department actually came out yesterday and took a sample from this spigot here,” said Taylor.

Several days after the water was dropped off, a state water resources officer took samples from Taylor’s outdoor spigot which comes directly from his well. Taylor was given a letter from TDEC. It says there had been a failure of the septic system at Southeastern Provision, a slaughterhouse, not far from Taylor’s home.

“Said that there been a catastrophic water contamination from the slaughterhouse up the road here,” said Taylor.

Results of water tests taken from seven wells along Helton and Lakeshore roads indicate positive for coliform and E.coli. 

“This is a different type of E.coli, it’s an intestinal E.coli, but it is an indicator of a pathogen that are found in animal waste or human waste,” said Michael Atchley with TDEC.

He was made aware of E. coli contamination at Bobby Hipsher’s home in early February. Hipsher lives less than half a mile from the packing house. As a result, water resource inspectors checked the septic system at Southeastern Provision.

“All the water was ponding and surfacing. It was not going into the ground,” said Atchley.

The contaminated water had flowed downhill to Taylor’s home and others. The state’s order to Southeastern Provision was swift: shut down its underground wastewater system.  

“At this time they have shut off all flow to their subsurface system and are hauling all their waste offsite to a treatment facility,” said Atchley.

Hipsher first alerted WATE 6 On Your Side in late January to a problem with his well water. 

“It just got to where we couldn’t use it. Rotten water really, It had a real bad smell about it. Smelled a lot like cow manure I guess you’d say,” said Hipsher.

Hipsher shut down his well. He now gets water from Bean Station Utility.

Water samples from Hipsher’s faucet and well were tested by a private company. The results were examined by his county health inspector.

“He said there was 2,400 E.coli in it,” he said. “Not to use it for consumption or to bathe in, I believe is what he said.”

Hipsher’s home is across the road from Dean Taylor’s place. State inspectors have been called to the slaughterhouse several times in the last few years.

“We have had issues with them with compliance at this site,” said Atchley.

In January, there was a bloody discharge, apparent slaughterhouse waste, pouring from pipes into a holding tank outside one of the buildings. 

According to state records, TDEC cited Southeastern Provision for “gross pollution and unlawful discharge,” in January 2012. Six years ago, inspectors found “discharge flowing near a holding tank,” noted the holding “tank was leaking” and was “poorly maintained.” Repairs were ordered.

After the latest septic system failure, the owner of the rendering plant, James Brantley, declined to meet with WATE 6 On Your Side.

However, Randy Hodge, who is in charge of the wastewater system at the facility, said the septic system collapsed because of heavy rainfall.

“All I’ve got to say is, we are in compliance with the state rules now. That’s it. I have been told by the owner to ask you guys to leave,” said Hodge.

“We will be monitoring them until we get a permanent solution. So we will be working with them and their staff to develop a new wastewater system for that facility,” said Atchley.

The state has suggested to Dean Taylor since his well water is contaminated he should consider hooking up to city water. 

Operations at Southeastern Provision continue and the facility remains open. Wastewater is being hauled out by truck to a location approved by the state, and monitoring will continue. 

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