Thursday, May 30, 2013

Despite my requests for information, Metro never got back to me

Right after the May 2010 flood, I emailed my council member Erica Gilmore asking whether Metro Nashville tested the soil around the Downtown Connector Greenway and Morgan Park to determine if the black and red liquids I saw floating in the flood and left behind on vegetation after the flood was toxic/carcinogenic to those exposed. Below is the email thread in the context of a flood relief meeting announced to her constituents:

Emergency Flood Relief Meeting in District 19 at Mt. Zion at 7 PM 
Fri, May 7, 2010 at 9:02 AM
To: Michael Byrd
Thanks so much. I will get answer to these questions.


ES Gilmore
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

From: Michael Byrd <>
Date: Fri, 7 May 2010 07:59:52 -0500
To: Erica Gilmore<>
Subject: Re: Emergency Flood Relief Meeting in District 19 at Mt. Zion at 7 PM

CM Gilmore:

Downtown Collector Greenway,
near the Metro Water biosolids facility,
May 27, 2010
Thanks for playing your part in helping Metro respond to the needs of storm-affected residents.

I plan to attend tonight's meeting. I know you are busy right now, so I wanted to go ahead and send you a couple of concerns I will ask about tonight if they are not addressed beforehand.

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?

Again, thank you for your service to our community.

Mike Byrd

I never heard back from anyone in Metro about my concerns after that. At the end of May 2010 I blogged on the persistent dark rings around trees and the fact that no one got back to me about these concerns. After 3 years of waiting, I am thankful that WSMV-Channel 4 raised them again and broadcasted them to a broader audience. I am also glad that I documented the spills and took photos.

Sadly, if Metro Nashville conducted no tests of the flooded areas around Salemtown and Germantown, then we may never know whether the toxic chemicals kept at Metro Water were really contained during the first week of May 2010. We also do not know whether we can have faith that we are safe from exposure using Morgan Park and the Downtown Greenway Connector along the Cumberland River itself, which receives the watershed that so many Middle Tennessee communities rely on.

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