Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Metro has not planned to test for and properly dispose of contaminated soil found on ballpark site

Look what we dug up!
Earlier this year, Metro was caught by the news media quietly dumping toxin-laced water treatment building debris and contaminated soil into a new landfill near Salemtown and Germantown. They were also busted for downplaying the levels of toxicity in the soil. At the time, the Mayor's Office minimized the level of contamination and possible exposure of neighbors and watershed by saying something to the effect that he had been told by his underlings that everything was fine. Nothing to see here.

And so Metro Water Services continued to dump contaminates in a hole near the Cumberland River and around the corner from our home; and everybody moved on.

Except that now we are hearing about more soil in the area found to be contaminated by barium and lead (removed by the state). The location of the findings: adjacent to the proposed Sulphur Dell ballpark site. In the name of public safety and environmental stewardship the common sense thing to do before construction starts is to test the ballpark site for heavy metals and other toxins, right?

"Wrong!" says the Mayor. Someone forgot to tell Hizzoner that it's not easy being green:

In spite of the problems, Mayor Karl Dean does not plan for environmental studies on the land under the ballpark.

"Well, we've already been in communication with the state about the environmental issues. But the environmental issues are what you would find almost anywhere downtown," Dean said.

Dean was asked if the city budget for the project includes money for soil remediation, should the city find it has to remove contaminated soil from underneath the Sulphur Dell stadium.

"Right now, we think we're in fine shape," Dean said.

Hidden costs are already a concern to some members of Metro Council.

Mayor Dean's pass-the-buck refrain sounds familiar for those of us following the Metro Water landfill. Then Metro Water argued that high levels of toxins could be found in bricks bought from Home Depot. No big deal. Likewise, contaminated soil can be found anywhere downtown. Feel safe now, downtown residents? Metro Water had not budgeted to truck their toxic soil to approved landfills. It was cheaper to bury it in the basement of a demolished building on their property. Likewise, the Mayor has not budgeted money for testing and remediation of soil on an historically industrial site next to brownfields found to be contaminated and possessing an unstable landfill. This is like a broken record skipping back to the same refrains when health and safety is at stake: money trumps environmental protection and political accountability.

I certainly hope that concerned members of the Metro Council step up and start to put stipulations on Erica Gilmore's Sulphur Dell bill that make the Mayor more accountable for the risks of this project.

For my part, I wrote another letter to CM Gilmore to do just that with her bill:

CM Gilmore:

On their 6:00 report tonight, Channel 4 reported that the state has found soil on properties adjacent to the proposed ballpark site at Sulphur Dell that contains toxins and heavy metals. They also reported that Metro does not plan to test the ballpark site soil for contaminants in order to properly dispose of them.

Given the recent fiasco at Metro Water Service's new landfill near Salemtown in which they were reportedly dumping soil known in the past to be toxic without testing it again, I am concerned that this sort of dumping could be repeated with possibly tainted soil from ballpark construction. I am particularly concerned that the soil could be added to MWS's recent dump between the Cumberland and Salemtown without any of us ever being warned by Metro officials.

Please amend any ballpark legislation to include requirements and funding for properly testing soil for contaminants and for disposing of any contaminated soil in approved landfills. Public safety and protection of our environment are worth the costs of proper disposal.


Mike Byrd

Given her silence on Metro Water's toxic dump, I would not be surprised if she ignored me on this one, too.

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