Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Metro and the state moving to create a landfill of toxins next door to Salemtown and Germantown

Channel 4's I-Team investigators discovered that Metro is about to start a new landfill of debris contaminated with heavy metals, carcinogens and toxins right on our doorstep:

In an email to Demetria Kalodimos, a Metro Water Services spokesperson defended the new North Nashville landfill with some flawed logic. Here are examples (inserted also are my replies, which are bolded):

  1. "The construction debris could have been sent to a demolition landfill but that would involve significant truck traffic and fuel consumption and would unnecessarily add material to landfills leading to the unpleasant need to site future landfills."

    And how is Metro not siting a future landfill between Salemtown and the Cumberland River by planning to bury toxic water treatment debris on the site of the old water treatment plant? I do not have to read too strongly between the lines to see exactly what this decision is about: Mayor Karl Dean is holding his budget cutting blades over most departments heads, and public health in historically less affluent parts of Nashville is collateral damage. But make no mistake: Metro is siting a new landfill in North Nashville, practically in Salemtown's lap.

  2. "the analyzed PCB concentration results were all below 10 PPM. This concentration, at an industrial site with one foot of cover, does not require off-site disposal nor approval for on-site disposal. The basement would essentially be a concrete tomb for the debris capped by a layer of soil containing clay to provide a protective cap on the site."

    The analysis of the test results done for Metro Nashville that MWS provided for WSMV is long, detailed and certain in its opinions that the concentration of banned carcinogenic chemicals still in the debris is safe for all of us to live around. (And I have not even started on what could happen in a future catastrophic flood of the Cumberland). Metro Nashville and our red state's department of environment and conservation insist that generating a new landfill several blocks from my house is safe for me and my family. But if these chemicals are perfectly safe in an old basement, why do government officials need to provide "a protective cap"? Who exactly would they need to protect if the chemicals are so safe that we are at a greater health risk buying bricks from Home Depot than in cavorting around contaminated debris? It sounds to me like they are protecting themselves.

Note that at the end of Channel 4's story we find out that no Metro Water or Metro Codes officials are willing to go on camera to talk about this matter. They obviously prefer to stay as quiet about it as they have been all along. In the interview Ms. Kalodimos asked me if I knew about this plan before she told me about it. I told her that no one had been transparent about it with me, an affected neighbor. Not Metro Water, not Codes, not my council member, not the Mayor. So, I am not surprised at all that the bureaucrats prefer to draw as little attention to potentially damaging news as possible.

The question is: are the area neighborhoods and the latest influx of developers going to get up in arms about this and keep it on the public radar to leverage positive change?

One last thing. Be sure you don't pass too quickly over Channel 4's last observation:

Yet the contractor being asked to do this burial work wanted a piece of paper on city letterhead saying this course of action was OK. That company has yet to get the directive in writing.

Why are Metro Water and Codes afraid to put their plan in writing even to the contractor burying the debris? (By the way, the package of emails and reports that MWS uses to justify their hushed-up plan comes replete with warnings that transmitting any of the correspondence between MWS and their private contractors is prohibited. Public interest be damned. Nothing to see here. Move on. What you don't know can't hurt you).


  1. The C&D landfill in Hermitage has been burying crap like this right next to the Stones River and the Nashville greenway for years. The site for this landfill would not even be considered by today's standards, yet continues to be grandfathered in allowing these toxins to be buried less than a mile upstream from where Metro takes out the water for all of Nashville to drink. They could not today open at this location under today's standards because core drilling for soil samples would hit water every time. This landfill should have never been placed in this location next to the river in a populated area, but money and politics trumped opposition by the people.

    During the flood of 2010 the water was up into this landfill. The mountain of debris buried there also blocked water from naturally spilling over into the floodplain. The result was the Stones River rising over a huge bluff into a neighborhood and nearby commercial shopping area.

    A clay liner is all that separates tons of toxins from the water table that feeds directly to the Stones River. One can only imagine what has or will end up in the river and be consumed by all Nashvillians.

    Odd that Ken Jakes spoke to reporters. His Council-At-Large campaign money took lots of money from the owner of the Hermitage C&D landfill. One can only wonder if he was asked to get involved so that the city would have to pay to have all of the toxins brought to Hermitage so that the owners of this landfill can make more money?

    Nashvillians also need to be aware that the state solid waste board passed new laws in December that took effect in March 2013 allowing many more uses for C&D landfills without permits being needed. These uses include several types of recycle processing. A possible processing type is the grinding and heating under pressure of asphalt roofing shingles to separate the oil from the shingles. CMembers Claiborne, Allen, and others recently deferred a citywide bill that would change the language in the Metro Code possibly opening the door to this type of processing. No council member will explain just why we need this bill, but the change would impact the entire city. It doesn't seem to take much to get a small C&D landfill and they are not required to be that far away from residential zoning.

    Seems our city leaders have their priorities out of order. Our green mayor is more concerned about spending our money for his friends in the business world than making sure our citizens live in a safe environment. Who cares if you have a green roof over your $580 million Music City Center if your citizens are dying of cancer from the air they breathe and the water they drink? Ask the mayor if he would like these toxins in his neighborhood? Maybe he will build one of his Charter schools over this poison pit. They built Hunter's Lane High over a landfill ya know.

  2. Do not like this at all...I cannot remember as I am not sure of the location but did this site flood in 2010? At a time when we need to protect one of our most precious resources - water - this makes zero sense...

    Thank you --

  3. that's "blue Metro Nashville" and "our red state's"

    Otherwise - nice post on what seems to be a real issue - both the actual burying of materials and the lack of transparency in communications.

  4. Anonymous, My name is Ken Jakes. In my campaign disclosure you will find I did not take any special interest money. My campaign contributions came from private individuals who sent me checks and informed me of they wanted to help me get elected because they liked my values and principals. There were many who sent me contributions whom I had never met and would not know them today unless they informed me who they were. My vote is not for sell to anyone. What you are referring too, I didn't even know myself about the situation until after the fact. It was sent as a private contribution. Believe what you wish but there are some honest individuals in this world and as I stated already my vote is not for sale.

  5. Mr. Jakes. Don't you find it odd that a resident of Mt Juliet would give you money for your campaign, especially since that resident owns the C&D landfill? If you are so concerned about not taking money from special interests groups, then perhaps you should do your homework before taking money from people you do not know. Just sayin'.