No excessive contamination at most sites

No excessive contamination at most sites

May 21st, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News


• First Tennessee Pavilion: foundry site

• 815 Hickory St.: Hazardous material storage building and maintenance shop

• 1715 and 1815 E. Main St. and Lynnbrook Avenue: Arcade Printing

• 2510 Glass St.: Gas stations

• 2707 Ocoee St.: Dump site

• Wisdom Street: Impound yard storage of vehicles and manufacturing facilities

• JDK property on Mueller Avenue: Iron foundry

Source: Chattanooga Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency; Terracon

Of the seven brownfield sites tested for contamination with the city's $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only one had excessively high levels, researchers said.

Chlorinated solvents, which are known carcinogens, were detected at above acceptable levels at the Arcade Printing property at 1815 E. Main St., said Dallas Whitmill, department manager with Terracon environmental services, one of the companies that did the testing.

However, the contamination appears contained in the groundwater on the property and will cause no harm to neighbors, he said.

More than likely, the chlorinated solvents were used to clean ink, officials said.

Three other sites - on Ocoee, Wisdom and Carter streets - had no groundwater contamination. A site at 815 Hickory St. had groundwater contamination with semivolatile organic compounds just above EPA drinking-water standards, and researchers found foundry sand, a filling material that includes arsenic and lead, at the First Tennessee Pavilion on Carter Street.

Exposure to arsenic can contribute to a weakened immune system, cancer, weak liver function and bowel disease. Studies show that even low concentrations of lead can lead to reduced IQ, learning disabilities and shortened attention span in children, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

However, researchers say the toxins are contained and in low concentration.

Foundry sand was found underground at the First Tennessee Pavilion, but it's not unusual to find that in Chattanooga because of the industries once located here.

"It doesn't pose a threat," said John W. Hargraves, regional manager of PM Environmental Inc. "It's underground, not on the surface. There's no risk to the public."

Whitmill and Hargraves were among fewer than a dozen Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency members, research representatives and residents who attended the final presentation this month on what the grant-funded study found.

The EPA awarded the grant so the city could study underused sites for contamination that could harm the public or block efforts to redevelop the properties, officials said. City officials next are looking to potential grant funding that could assist in cleaning up the sites.

Phase I evaluation of the sites involved looking at records of the sites' history to determine if contamination was possible based on what previously was on the property. Phase II evaluation involves water and soil sampling for contamination.

Two of the seven sites, the JDK property on Mueller Avenue and the Glass Street property, were eliminated from Phase II testing because the property owners wanted to have the sites tested themselves, said Yuen Lee, director of information and research for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency.

Researchers said that, in general, any contamination found on the sites had a "fairly minimal impact" on the soil.

Hargraves, which conducted the study on the Wisdom Street site, insisted that the property had no groundwater contamination.

"We recommended no further action on that site," Hargraves said. "We didn't really find anything that was above any kind of background level."

But John James, a former security guard who worked near the Wisdom Street site, said he's seen spills from train cars coming through the area, and he doubts the report.

"You've got [a manufacturing company] there and all of their tank cars are unloaded there and they do have spill-offs," said James, noting that a dump also once sat on the site.

Hargraves said the foundry sand sealed into some areas at the First Tennessee Pavilion requires no action for the venue's current use. He recommended consulting with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation if the use changes.

Terracon tested the sites on Ocoee Street, 801 Hickory St. and at Main Street and Lynn-brook Avenue.

The Ocoee site contained some soil contamination from organic compounds and a pesticide, he said, but both were low concentrations.

"The main issue with the Ocoee Street site is the historical dumping," Whitmill said. "There needs to be a way to prevent that before the cleanup occurs, or it will just happen again."

There's no need to spend the time and money to clean this site if there's no way to prevent it from getting in that condition again in sixth months, he said.

Whitmill said if city officials knew who was doing the dumping, the perpetrators would be prosecuted. Materials dumped over time include old paint cans, tires, TVs, electronics, mattresses - just about anything people don't want, he said.

At the 815 Hickory St. site, owned by the 28th Legislative District Community Development Corp., researchers detected an organic compound in groundwater that was slightly above the drinking-water standard.

"But nobody is going to be drinking that water anyway," said Whitmill. "They're going to put a deed restriction on anybody putting a well in there and then that issue is resolved."

The corporation is a private nonprofit created to revitalize the district and provide home-ownership opportunities for low- to moderate-income residents.

Whitmill said there also was asbestos and lead-based paint in some buildings on the 815 Hickory St. site, which must be dealt with if anyone goes in to remodel or demolish the buildings.

Environmental assessment reports for each site are available at