published Friday, September 16th, 2011

South Chattanooga residents get update on Velsicol cleanup


by Andrew Pantazi
Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Residents around the old Velsicol site may not get what they want —  a deep cleanup of the former chemical property — because the area is zoned for industry.
Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Residents around the old Velsicol site may not get what they want —  a deep cleanup of the former chemical property — because the area is zoned for industry.
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The Tennessee Department of Health is analyzing thousands of pages of data to determine whether the defunct Velsicol Chemical plant in South Chattanooga is harming local residents.

Bonnie Bashor, the director of the Environmental Epidemiology Program at the Health Department, hosted a meeting Thursday at the Bethlehem Center in Alton Park explaining the health assessment process.

“We’re working as fast as we can go,” Bashor said. “But we want to do it right.”

Bashor and her staff will spend the next few months looking at data to determine if the current cleanup plan is sufficient or if more drastic measures need to be taken.

The plant site, which already has had 24 million pounds of pollution removed, was given a permit saying that two feet of dirt needs to cover the polluted ground, but local activists say that isn’t enough.

Instead, activist Jeremy Tallman-Gazaway said workers should put a high-density polyethylene liner under two feet of compacted clay and twomore feet of soil to prevent groundwater contamination.

The state Health Department is assessing the environmental damage, according to Bashor, because of a letter that Tallman-Gazaway’s wife, Elizabeth, had sent to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

“We haven’t been idle since the letter came, although it may seem that way,” Bashor said. “We have a whole lot of data that’s not always useable. This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes us awhile to do it.”

Bashor said that the rough draft of the report should be finished before the year is over.

“We’ve just been waiting for any results we can get,” Tallman-Gazaway said.

about Andrew Pantazi...

Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...

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UjokinRIGHTQ said...

Instead of of scaring businesss off that could provide jobs, these impoverished areas should do more to attrack businesses that could provide jobs for their community. We're all going to die from something. At some point and time the ratio of all life expectancy trickles to zero.When I have come to Chattanooga to visit I've noticed that other plant in that area which sends out something that stinks to high heaven all day and all night has done more damage to the environment in that part of town than that Velsicol plant every did. The residents are breathing that stuff in day in and day out. That part of town needs someone with vision that can uplift the people and the community through jobs and job training rather than running potential businesses off.

September 16, 2011 at 10:12 a.m.
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