by Steven Hale
Last week, WSMV reported that the city was planning to bury the toxic remains of an old incinerator facility near the Germantown neighborhood in North Nashville, and 300 yards from the Cumberland River.
Metro officials have maintained there's nothing to worry about, and that they didn't notify the nearby public about their plan because there's nothing to worry about. There's nothing to worry about. Really.
But wait, there's more!
Now, WSMV reports that a pile of dirt containing 60 times the allowable concentration of petroleum chemicals in some places will also be buried onsite.
A tall pile of dirt has sat there so long, trees have sprouted. And some of it is so contaminated with petroleum chemicals, workers could smell it.
Experts even said back in 2004 that it exceeded TDEC's most stringent "action level" for pollution.
The dirt came out of the ground years ago during the digging phase for the new sewage plant that cooks sludge into pellets.
And according to Metro Water Services, that excavated dirt - laced with petroleum in some places 60 times more concentrated than what's allowable - has never, in nine years, been removed from the Metro site.
The truckloads are now going right back into the ground in the same hole with the lead, arsenic and PCB demolition debris - all of which officials say is perfectly safe.
The Channel 4 I-Team asked Metro Water Services spokeswoman Sonia Harvat if the soil has been thoroughly tested yet.
"I can't answer that question. We have a contract with Archer Western, and the soil is to be tested prior to being put in the incinerator basements," Harvat said.
Yet the men actually handling the dirt said 97 loads have already gone in with no testing for petroleum pollution.
Metro officials still say everything's fine. But even putting aside questions about whether or not the material being buried at the site is hazardous — and that's quite a bit to be putting aside — they don't seem to realize why their consistent refrain has not assuaged the concerns of area residents.
Last week, Ron Taylor, clean water program director at Metro Water Services, told Pith that the demolition debris was being put “in a concrete vault, covered in clay," he says, "which is pretty much like a landfill.” In WSMV's latest report, Metro Water spokeswoman Sonia Harvat says "There's nothing wrong with this material. It can be put in a regular landfill. Instead of toting it to a landfill, we're burying it in place."
In both cases, it appears Water officials are attempting to show just how safe this situation will be. That this material is not so contaminated that it would be rejected by an ordinary landfill, and that it will be handled with as much caution at its present location as it would be in a landfill. So what's the difference?
Even if one takes them at their word about all of that, what they also seem to acknowledge in such statements is that they are essentially creating a landfill in Germantown.