Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Metro Water adding petroleum toxins to its new North Nashville landfill

The other shoe dropped in the Metro Water landfill controversy. Not only are toxins besides PCBs, lead and arsenic going into the MWS hole, but in some places the toxicity exceeds legal levels:

Again, just like I wrote yesterday, Metro Water officials do not even seem to care about their own double speak (assuming they even see it). PR specialist Sonia Harvat insists that the 2010 flood did not reach the petroleum pile, but she also insists that the dirt in the pile is safe enough to put in Metro Water's new landfill to leach out into the ground water and eventually into the Cumberland. Why should it matter to her or anyone else at Metro Water if the 2010 flood did reach the pile? They are already so convinced that it is safe.

Photo I took on May 3, 2010. Metro Water's highly toxic petroleum pile
is in the background at the center. The Cumberland River is rising from
behind the pile and from the right edge of the photo.

May 3, 2010 photo of road (now flooded) where I snapped photo earlier
of the petroleum pile (Metro closed off access any closer).
Had I known then what I know today, I would have panned to the left more.

Metro's aerial shot from May 3, 2010. Petroleum pile circled in white.
Normal Cumberland River shoreline drawn in black.

However, if the flood missed the pile as Ms. Harvat told Ms. Kalodimos in tonight's report it did not miss by much. Metro's aerial photo indicates that flood waters came up to the bottom of the pile hours before crest. Unless Metro Water has honest reports on water damage, we may never know whether the petroleum toxins were actually contained during the flood. And I have to wonder now whether the black stuff I watched streaming into Morgan Park with flood waters 1 block from our home was from the unremediated petroleum pile languishing on a MWS parking lot since 2004.

Moreover, how can we even trust Metro Water officials when they insist that the toxic dirt would be tested before burial after workers on site told Channel 4 that almost 100 loads of dirt have already gone into the ground untested? Metro Water refuses to even be accountable for whether the soil is being tested yet: Ms. Harvat told Ms. Kalodimos that she cannot answer the question on whether the soil has been thoroughly tested yet (even though she seems convinced it will be safe enough). Seems like the standard bureaucratic two-step: public agency hires private contractor, which allows public officials deniability when it comes to accountability. And private contractors never have to be accountable to voters. It's the perfect vicious circle. In the meantime, Metro Water pushes ahead with their burial, deniability in their back pocket, and the agency bunkers itself from the blowback from concerned citizens like me instead of exercising transparency and accountability.

MWS workers were out cleaning up oil-like liquids on the greenway by MWS on May 3.
The liquids left dark lines and streaks across trees and grass for weeks afterwards.
Did the dark stuff came from the pile? We will likely never know.

The 2004 assessment report lays down an unequivocal directive that defies the bureaucratic two-step:

Because petroleum contamination is known to exist at the northeast corner of the property, special procedures and consideration may be necessary if excavation of the contaminated soil is necessary for construction of the biosolids treatment facility

It was handled by stacking the soil (that one pro landfill telling Channel 4 they would not accept it) in a pile in the open (with the blessing of the renowned green state of Tennessee) without telling anyone in the open what was in the pile. Now it is dealt with absent consideration and with the unceremonious procedure of dropping it in a hole and covering it up. Out of sight; out of mind. Kind of like a cancer, which is exactly what exposure to these materials causes.

Metro Water intends to "flag the deed" to let future generations know what they are dealing with. Good for future generations, but bad for the present ones. These people don't care about us, their neighbors. They have already admitted in emails to Demetria Kalodimos that this is a primarily a matter of their agency saving money for Karl Dean's administration.

And the Mayor is the one ultimately answerable for this environmental abuse. The buck stops right about where the fish rots. Hizzoner puts some vegetation on top of a new convention center and markets it wanting you to believe he's a tailor-made green candidate for the US Senate or the Governor's mansion. But in low-visibility places that most Nashvillians do not hear about and under cover of hushed initiatives of a Metro agency he oversees, he is content to bury and cover up Metro's toxic water treatment cocktail of PCBs, lead, arsenic and now petroleum regardless of its proximity to our watershed.

Afterword: I'll be writing on this controversy again tomorrow. In 2005 I attended a community meeting sponsored by Metro Water at the Neuhoff Complex in East Germantown. I told Demetria Kalodimos that had I known what I know now about the soil contamination problem I would have asked different questions at that meeting. Of course, Metro Water failed to disclose that problem to its neighbors in 2005.

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