Watchdog barks at pollution agency

A Tennessee watchdog group has analyzed the state's water pollution enforcement records and says the state underutilizes enforcement tools and has too few regulators.

"While stream after stream goes on the (state's) list of impaired streams, we see little to no accountability for violators," said Renée Victoria Hoyos, executive director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network, based in Knoxville.

The network's 15-page report concludes that in Tennessee "it is cheaper to ask for forgiveness than permission."

PDF: Enforcement Report

According to the group's look at enforcement actions reported in 2008 by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, state regulators brought 231 water pollution enforcement actions at 204 sites statewide.

On average, Ms. Hoyos said, that's about two actions per county in a whole year.

What's more, she said, the fines usually are forgiven, and the state in 2008 collected only $733,398 of the $3.1