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):
- "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.
- "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).