published Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Velsicol petition drive set


Reference the plan: "Intent to Modify a Permit TNHW-105 and Approve a Final Remedy" for the Chattanooga Velsicol site.

Submit in writing by 4:30 p.m. CST on Friday to: Mr. Roger Donovan, Division of Solid Waste Management, 5th Floor, L&C Tower, 401 Church St., Nashville, TN 37243-1535

Submit by e-mail to

Source: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

Some 35 people from across Hamilton County made plans Saturday to take petitions to their churches and communities today in hopes of rallying state regulators to force more cleanup at Velsicol's 36-acre idled plant site in South Chattanooga.

"This is not just an Alton Park or South Chattanooga problem," said Jeremy Tallman-Gazaway. "This groundwater flows through [combined sewer and stormwater overflow] pipes to the Chattanooga Creek. And the creek flows to the Tennessee River."

With less than a week left to get comments to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the group -- rallied Saturday by the Sierra Club Cherokee Group -- said it was motivated to act by a state plan called the "final remedy" for the site.

In January, residents were told that state officials had agreed with Velsicol on a plan to cover most of the site with 12 to 18 inches of clean dirt. They said the site would remain fenced and groundwater would be monitored.

Officials said the plan does not call for any more contamination to be removed from the site. And they told residents that contaminated groundwater was pumped from the site to the city sewer system.

Tallman-Gazaway said he has been researching the claims, and city wastewater officials have issued two permits to Velsicol allowing the pumped groundwater to be disposed of in the sewer system.

"But they told me they have no tests to determine if the wastewater contains pesticide or herbicide," he said.

The Velsicol plant operated for more than 40 years, manufacturing herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals including benzene and benzoyl. Those two chemicals have been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a carcinogen and probable carcinogen, respectively.

Jim Faulkner, who said he's lived in Chattanooga and St. Elmo all his life, told the group everyone in the county should sign the petition.

"I can't ever remember when Velsicol was not a problem here. We really need to go forward on this," he said.

Gary Hermann, Velsicol's senior environmental projects manager, repeatedly has said he believes the cover-and-monitor plan is "protective of human health and the environment."

In January, Hermann said Velsicol in the last two or three years has spent millions of dollars cleaning the site and conducting sampling tests. And he said there is little pollution left now in the groundwater.

"If there's just a little left, why not go ahead and dig it out and clean up the site?" said Dwight Jones, a former Velsicol worker who claims he knows there is more pollution on the site.

Hermann and Clayton Bullington, the TDEC permit writer working on the state and Velsicol agreement, have said that even with 12 inches to 18 inches of clean soil piled up, the site will be suitable only for industrial use.

That doesn't satisfy those working on the petition.

"We will not support this," said Elenora Woods, a local dentist who grew up in Alton Park.

"We need to demand some answers, some studies and some action," she said.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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zwickau said...

We're all going to die from something. If whatever pollutants there have killed the residents their system has most likely built up an immunity to. Instead of suing companies and giving out a few hundred dollars to the residents, which isn't enough to last even a week for some, these depressed communities should be doing what they can to draw businesses to their areas. This is why primarily black communities remain poor and in constant deterioration. There's nothing there to sustain them. One can immediately recognize the differences just driving through these communities and their close neighboring communities that are thriving. There are all kinds of businesses in one; flower shops, bakery shops, doctors' offices, restaurants owned by residents in the community, a medicine factory that hires from the community verses their community which basically has nothing to sustain and improve it.

February 6, 2011 at 10:48 a.m.
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