published Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Runoff in Bradley County's Brymer Creek raising concerns

"S.O.S. Stuck on Stupid: Spring Branch Industrial Park" armbands were distributed at a recent Bradley County Commission meeting by Steve Campbell, a McDonald community resident.
"S.O.S. Stuck on Stupid: Spring Branch Industrial Park" armbands were distributed at a recent Bradley County Commission meeting by Steve Campbell, a McDonald community resident.
Photo by Paul Leach.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Residents are expressing dismay over muddy runoff affecting the near-pristine Brymer Creek in the McDonald community of southern Bradley County.

"I'm at a loss for words," said Steve Campbell, who lives near Spring Branch and Brymer Creek and has posted videos to YouTube since August 2012 that display images of muddy flows in those bodies of water.

A Tennessee Department of Transportation project to connect Harriman Road to APD-40 near exit 20 on Interstate 75 has been identified as contributing to the problem, and property on the western side of I-75 has been cited as another source.

In a recent meeting, Bradley County Commissioner Ed Elkins and several McDonald residents discussed erosion control problems connected with the road project.

"The bottom line is that a lot of the environmental issues haven't been addressed," Elkins said of erosion control deficiencies noted in Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation site inspections dating to late May.

The agency issued a notice of violation for the project in July and has given Cleveland until early October to make improvements to the site's check dams and other runoff controls.

Nobody seems to take responsibility for the problem, Elkins said.

With the runoff from the five acres used for the road project, Campbell asked what kind of problems will be caused by a planned 200-acre industrial park that the Harriman Road connector will serve.

Before the meeting, Campbell handed out armbands that read "S.O.S. Stuck on Stupid: Spring Branch Industrial Park."

Elkins said cost overruns are another concern with the Harriman Road project.

Bradley County and Cleveland each contribute 25 percent to the TDOT project, and the state contributes 50 percent.

The project has exceeded its $4 million budget by nearly $800,000, city officials said. Most of the cost overrun was caused by $434,000 in erosion control overages and $347,000 spent to reduce the road's grade and provide commercial transportation with easier access to the planned industrial park.

The cost overruns can be paid without any additional cost by shifting money from a related connector project on the north side of APD 40, Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel said. That project, also budgeted at $4 million, is expected to come in significantly under budget.

The state has approved the plan, and the Cleveland City Council has given its approval contingent upon the agreement of the state and the Bradley County Commission.

The Bradley County Finance Committee recently voted 3-1 to approve the measure. Elkins, the committee's chairman, voted against it "to send a message."

The Bradley County Commission will vote Sept. 5 on the funds transfer.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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