Nine homes' wells aren't usable

Friday, July 22, 2011
Archie Fremen holds his great-granddaughter, Rachel Harrington, 30 days old today, as great-grandmother Ingeborg Fremen looks on.

Several residents on the east side of Craig Moore Road just north of Mooresville Pike are complaining their well water is unusable, according to spokesmen at some of the households.

Marshall County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett has also described the residents' water as unusable, but he declined to "speculate" as to the cause of what's happened. Several residents interviewed Wednesday were willing to describe what happened.

It is their opinion that blasting to widen Mooresville Highway, State Route 373, shook the land, shifted rocks and allowed unexpected materials to get into their water wells. Eight or nine dwellings may be affected.

"We had only heard from one homeowner on June 14," transportation department spokeswoman B.J. Doughty said Thursday. "We advised them to contact the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. There's no way for us to know... what caused that. From what I know about blasting ... I don't know that anybody is going to be able to tell. There's no way to do a pre-blast survey on (an underground water supply)."

As local officials look for solutions, residents describe their problem.

"I quit changing the water filter," Archie Fremen of 1126 Craig More Road said Wednesday afternoon while displaying water pipes from his well and a filter. "It just turns it black," Fremen said of contaminants in his water and filter. The water smells bad and has an oily sheen to it. The Fremens are not drinking the water. Several residents bought memberships in a gym so they could bathe.

Fremen's water and that of Gail Escamilla at 1140 Craig Moore Road were tested by TDEC. Various chemicals and natural basic elements were found in the water. Lewisburg Water and Wastewater Superintendent Kenneth Carr pointed to a state report explaining the levels of what was found are much lower that what would require a health advisory. Test results did show the odor is high. However, Carr said, that's a subjective measurement based on what someone's nose smells.

"It is my professional opinion that the Lewisburg City Landfill is the cause of impact in these wells along Craig Moore Road," James T. Clark, a geologist with the Solid Waste Management Division said in a memo from TDEC's office in Columbia.

Meanwhile, Liggett and Carr cautioned on Wednesday that it's too soon to assign blame. There are technical and legal issues regarding ownership and responsibility.

The landfill mentioned by Clark is on what's commonly called the Garrett property, so-named for the family that owned the land used for a landfill. It's next to Cedar Ridge Landfill, operated by a company owned by Waste Management Inc.

"As best I know, the city only leased it," Carr said Thursday morning.

Calls to City Manager David Orr on Wednesday and Thursday were unproductive as he said he was in meetings, or staff said he was on the phone.

Meg Lockhart, spokeswoman for TDEC, provided information.

"There are confirmations of contaminated wells on Craig Moore Road," Lockhart said. "Preliminary investigation by our staff indicates the contamination is likely coming from the old City of Lewisburg closed landfill rather than the Cedar Ridge Landfill.

"Residents reported changes in water quality and our Division of Water Supply staff out of the Columbia field office assisted the Division of Solid Waste Management in collecting samples for analyses and interpretation as it relates to safe drinking water," she said. "Contaminants detected in samples collected from two of the wells include: chloroform, toluene, MEK, acetone, iron, manganese and barium. With the exception of iron and manganese, the levels are below Safe Drinking Water standards or Health Advisory Levels if no standard exists. Iron and Manganese levels were extremely high.

"It is my understanding that the City of Lewisburg intends to extend water lines to these homes and provide a temporary source of water in the interim," the state spokeswoman said. "They are currently applying for some funding to assist with this project."

Other cities have faced similar circumstances involving ownership and responsibility as well as environmental regulations and old town dumps. Murfreesboro is an example.

"It's not a national emergency, but for the two or thee families affected, obviously it's a big, big thing," Carr said.

Tijuana Alexander of 1118 Craig Moore Road listed the names of nine properties with perhaps a dozen residents or more who are affected.

She and the Fremens want water service restored to their homes, they say. They've turned to Carr and county officials.

Liggett emphasized that the most pressing question was what could be done for the affected residents. He attended a state meeting on the issue on July 12 with County Solid Waste Director Morgan Thomas and Tommy Whaley, superintendent of the Marshall County Board of Public Utilities.

Liggett said he'd report what he knows on Monday night when the county commission meets.

Craig Moore Road is beyond the city line but it is within the Urban Growth Boundary of Lewisburg, thereby indicating that the city might be able to help.

"Does the city have an obligation," Carr asked Wednesday, "to provide them a line when they're out of the city limits?"

Lewisburg's Water and Wastewater Department's Board of Directors met Thursday afternoon, a meeting that several Craig Moore Road residents said they'd attend.