Friday, May 14, 2010

2010 Nashville flood: oil, fuel, chemical spill on the Downtown Connector Greenway (photos)

Early on Monday morning, May 3 I walked several blocks from home to the rapidly rising Cumberland River to document the disaster. One of the first things I encountered was a large, flatbed 18-wheeler loaded with a number of bins labeled "used fuel filters" being hauled out of its submerged spot at a 2nd Avenue North cement plant. A plant employee told me that several large trucks had been submerged and showed me how wheel and engine lubricants were washed out and needed to be addressed by mechanics.

Later that afternoon when I returned to the area, I encountered a heavy petroleum smell and I saw black and red liquids floating around the flooded portions Downtown Connector Greenway, which parallels 2nd Avenue. Around a half dozen U.S. Coast Guard officials were present observing and filming the spillage. Metro Water Services employees floated large white cloths on the flood waters. The next day as flood waters receded I observed another crew of MWS workers in heavy boots and gloves, using cloths to mop petroleum spills. I have since learned that a number of companies keep fuel containers on the river and that fuel had likely leaked out into the environment during the flood.

A few days ago I made my way back to the Greenway to get pictures of any remaining visible spillage. Even though the area had got some rain since May 3, the pictures show that environmental problems still remain. Not being a specialist, I do not know how much fuel was spilled on the greenway, nor do I know what other chemicals might be in the soil. The following pictures show some of the strands of tar-like substance that remain on the greenway and its trees.

I sent the following questions last week to my council member, Erica Gilmore, and I'm still awaiting some answers.
  1. The flooding of East Germantown and the Central Wastewater Plant hit fuel and machine parts containers, industrial machinery, and large trucks. Fuel and other chemicals were spilled onto the Downtown Connector greenway and intersections and lawns in East Germantown and back into the river. Have or will tests be run to determine what kinds of toxins are in the neighborhood soil? How safe are we from exposure? Are people being warned to stay out of these public areas until clean-up? When does Metro expect to have spills completely clean? Are there stronger rules Metro can establish for storing toxic materials in East Germantown to prevent such accidents in the future?
  2. During the crest of the Cumberland River some of us were at the site of flooding in Salemtown: Morgan Park. The park has been flooded since last Saturday and it is now slowly receding. In the hours before the crest on Monday, flood water continued to push up from sewers on 3rd and 4th Avenues and into the already flooded park. During that time a reddish-brown substance gathered underneath the water flooding the closed intersection of 4th and Hume. Do we have any idea what chemicals could have come out of these sewers? Given its close proximity to East Germantown, will any tests be performed on Morgan Park soil for toxic substances? The police have worked hard to keep people out of the water standing in the park, but does Metro have plans to clean up the water and any chemicals that may have flooded in when the river was rising?

1 comment:

  1. Good work and good luck getting an answer. I'm guessing they are hoping to ignore the problem, there is a problem in the Gulf you know. That way everyone can start making money again.