Questions about fly ash addressed

Engineer says site is ‘in very good shape’

The Hollingsworth Foundation’s Aspire park in South Clinton took center stage at Monday evening’s City of Clinton council meeting.

Heiskell resident Charlie Cardwell spoke to council during the public comments portion of the meeting to discuss his concerns over the fly ash at Aspire. As previously reported in The Courier News, a 40-plus acre section of the proposed park was once used as a fly ash landfill. According to Cardwell, who worked for years as a manager for the Department of Energy in Oak Ridge, his biggest concern about the fly ash is the mercury component.

“Mercury is a devil all by itself,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize that mercury starts vaporizing at 76 degrees. If that stuff gets disturbed, it will start vaporizing.”

His concern was the effects of long term, chronic exposure.

“It takes 10-15 years for this stuff to hit you, but then it will hit you,” he said. “I don’t want to see any of our children become affected with this.”

Hollingsworth Foundation Executive Director Mike Wallace was present at the meeting and took time to address Cardwell’s concerns. He brought along Principal Engineer and Manager for QE2 George Hyfantis, who specializes in hazardous waste management areas. He has also been an adjunct professor of Environmental Engineering at the University of Tennessee for nearly 40 years.

“I really appreciate the comments the gentleman made about his concerns about the park,” Hyfantis said. “This site was used as a structural ash landfill. And there is a cap on top of that. I do a lot of work with people on landfills, and this is one of the better ones I’ve run across. It’s in very good shape.”

Hyfantis said that caps do need to be maintained, and that the one at Aspire has been well maintained. The “cap” is two feet of clay topping off the fly ash, which is compacted so much it’s nearly the consistency of concrete.

The site will be a meadow area, and no digging, planting or disturbing of any kind will take place there.

“The design was approved by TDEC,” Hyfantis explained. “It was built according to their standards.”

There is a storm drain that runs underneath the landfill, and the water quality has been tested.

“It didn’t pick up any contamination,” he said.

TDEC suggested that the Hollingsworth Foundation look into the integrity of that pipe, and so they sent a camera all the way down.

“The structural integrity was really good,” Hyfantis confirmed.

The water quality was at drinking standards, and the soil quality indicated that no ash had seeped through the clay liner.

“In my opinion, and I’ve been dealing with landfills 30 to 40 years, this is one of the best closed ash landfills that I’ve run across and it’s a good place for a park,” he concluded.

While Clinton city council does not have any type of control over what happens at the park, since it’s 100-percent privately owned and funded, councilman Jim McBride requested that the foundation keep the city informed on what testing it performs and what the results are.

Clinton Mayor Scott Burton asked how often the area will be tested. Hyfantis responded that it would be tested according to the EPA schedule, which, up to this point, had not been done.

Burton said it was his belief that the area would be safer as a park, since there would be more oversight and attention given to the area.

Cardwell suggested to council that they get second and third opinions on the quality of the soil, water and air, just to be safe.

Other items discussed during the meeting included:

An update on Magnet Mills. The owners of the property have started demolition on the last remaining structure.

Rezoning parts of downtown Clinton to allow single family residential homes. This was approved.

A request for authorization for $159K from the undesignated fund balance to repair the section of Eagle Bend road that experienced a landslide during the flooding. This was approved.