County added to disaster list

Friday, May 21, 2010

Excessive rain three weeks ago has led to a disaster declaration for Marshall County that comes with state and federal assistance for ground water testing and reconstruction of roads and buildings.

Giles, Pickett and Cannon counties were added to the rest of Middle Tennessee that was damaged by flooding April 30-May 2, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency announcement on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the state will be testing water wells and springs for potential contamination as a result of flooding, Marshall County Emergency Management Agency Director Bob Hopkins said, deferring to the larger federal announcement since more information is available about FEMA assistance.

"Residents and business owners who sustained losses ... can begin applying for assistance immediately by registering online at or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362)," the federal agency announced.

Individual assistance can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Public assistance is also available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures only at this time.

Disaster assistance officials were to be visiting Marshall County's EMA offices late this week, or early next week to see about the prospect of establishing a local office at the Hardison Office Annex on College Street, Hopkins said.

John Smiley, a top aide to County Roads Superintendent Jerry Williams, said Thursday that typically federal assistance is three-quarters of the cost of repairs with the balance split by the county and the state. The source of the county money is not the county general fund. It's the county's share of fuel tax revenue generated in this county that's dedicated to the county Roads Department.

FEMA confirmed the cost sharing formula.

Approved public assistance projects will get 75 percent of the cost. The remaining 25 percent is split between the state and local government, FEMA announced. These projects may include such things as debris removal, emergency services related to the severe storms and flooding, and repairing or replacing damaged public facilities. The latter category includes eligible schools, libraries and other public buildings, and repairing roads, bridges, water control facilities, utilities and recreational facilities.

Smiley listed four county roads with significant damage by flood waters flowing early this month.

They included Reynolds and Hazelwood roads, King Lane and part of Snake Creek Road.

"We had quite a few others. We had some slides on other roads with New Town Road being among the worst. Some of them have been fixed... Some are partly fixed so traffic can come through and to prevent more damage if there's more rain," Smiley said.

As for rain forecast Thursday and today, he said, "Being uneventful would be nice."

It's "too early to say" what the storm cost the county, Smiley said. "We'll have a figure after the FEMA team is down here. We didn't have any bridges washed out." Culverts have been replaced and debris has been cleared from drainage ways.

Marshall and Pickett were not among the counties for which Gov. Phil Bredesen originally requested disaster assistance on May 3, but preliminary damage assessments conducted since the initial request led both counties to qualify.

Forty-two counties were previously approved for individual and public assistance, including Benton, Carroll, Cheatham, Crockett, Davidson, Decatur, Dickson, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Haywood, Henderson, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Madison, Maury, McNairy, Montgomery, Obion, Perry, Robertson, Rutherford, Shelby, Smith, Sumner, Tipton, Williamson and Wilson.

Wednesday's announcement brings the number of counties approved for both individual and public assistance to 45 and adds Pickett County in the public assistance category.

FEMA will schedule briefings with local officials in approved counties to provide information on the assistance available and how to apply. Federal, state and local teams have been inspecting all disaster-related damage, examining expenses identified by the state or local representatives, and preparing reports that outline the scope of repair work needed and the estimated restoration cost.

Beyond reconstruction, disaster assistance is to protect public health, according to information received at Marshall's EMA office.

Lynn Burns, the emergency response coordinator for the Health Department in the South Central Region, has alerted Hopkins about plans to test "wells that could be fouled by the flood," Hopkins said. "They're not going to test every well. It will be on request."

"In the watershed that feeds wells and springs, if the water gets up upstream, then it's going to run more into the water shed" and affect ground water, he said.

TDEC might normally charge a $115 fee for such testing, Hopkins said, but because of the flood, it will provide one free bacteriological test for which the fee will be waived. FEMA will apparently provide part of the cost of such testing.

Inquiries may be made by calling a toll-free number, 1-888-891-8332, he said.

"This does not affect in any way people who are on county or city water services," Hopkins said.

For more updates regarding the state's response, visit the TEMA website at