From the beginning the warning bells have sounded as many citizens spoke up about the economic and environmental impact of such a large construction project like the Spring Branch Industrial Park would have on our community.
I think Matt Bentley said it best almost a year ago as the vote to go forward with the park was being initiated.
“I want you to think long and hard about the pros and cons of this development,” community member Matt Bentley said.
Bentley said he and others in the community did not feel respected in the process thus far.
The above concerns by resident Matt Bentley and other concerned citizens, including members of the Tea Party of Bradley County now sound like an ominous warning that got neglected resulting in our elected leaders rendering the seriousness of this debate to an afterthought.
Repeated warnings of possible degradation to the environment around this sight and to the creek were voiced for almost a year prior to this most recent negative impact to the states fifth cleanest creek.
You can clearly see, a year ago, where the ball got dropped although two of Bentley’s concerns were addressed in a paragraph added before the original resolution, presented by 6th District Commissioner Robert Rominger as reported in the Cleveland Daily Banner.
This added paragraph said steps would be taken to limit the impact on the community from the industrial park. The proposed steps include: “(1) sewer service to the proposed Spring Brach Road site will be provided from an existing 8-inch sewer line on APD 40, (2) buffers will surround building sites as shown on the concept drawing, (3) Spring Branch Road will be closed and will not be used for ingress or egress from the industrial park and (4) Harriman Road will serve as a secondary method of ingress and egress from the site and every effort will be made to prevent traffic use other than in an emergency.”
The resolution does not address the community’s concern about preserving Spring Branch, Brymer Creek and Candies Creek from storm water runoff as reported in the Cleveland Daily Banner 12 months ago.
Seventh District Commissioner Bill Winters said the Commission does in fact respect the community’s concerns. Winters said he shared concerns about protecting the area’s creeks.
“I don’t think any of us want an industrial park to negatively impact your community,” Winters said.
Mr Winters spoke of it, showed concern, went a step further to say he heard our concerns and was interested in protecting the area creeks and not negatively impact them, but it appears to be only talk. To my knowledge, no plan or oversight was planned beyond talking about it and acknowledging that the problem or potential exists.
We are always so quick to form a committee to study one thing or another, this would and could have been an excellent opportunity to say we are going to follow this through to make sure this didn’t happen to one of the cleanest creeks in the state.
Fast forward one year and we see Brymer creek and the surrounding area being inundated and degraded by muddy polluted stormwater runoff at the Spring Branch construction site.
During the Bradley County Commission voting session meeting Monday evening, Commissioner Ed Elkins said, “Last week I reported on a situation down in the McDonald area or Exit 20 area involving some stormwater runoff. Subsequent to the meeting last week, I did learn that it had been looked at by TDEC and the environmental engineers from the city of Cleveland and I was assured that corrective action was in place to correct that.” Mr. Elkins was referring to the stormwater runoff coming from road and industrial development projects near Spring Branch causing muddy water to flow into Brymer Creek as reported by the Chattanoogan.com.
Dan Rawls addressed the commission stating, “This situation out in McDonald is why the people of McDonald were opposed to this. I don’t know if anyone has seen the video of the degradation of that creek, but you were warned about it from the beginning. Who is accountable for this? The people who are affected by this are in the county. How can you allow that to happen to a waterway that’s that clean and that recognized? We were all told that would never happen. Who is accountable, the government, the people who did it or the contractors? What’s the answer here? What’s going on? We tried to warn you that this was going to happen. Why were the systems not put in place to have prevented this in the first place? I fought this thing for over a year and they’ve fought it longer than that. I think there needs to be some answers and some apologies to the people that live out there around that creek that warned you about this.”
Commissioner Elkins responded, “The permit for that project was issued to the city of Cleveland. They have responsibility for it. The contractor did not take the necessary precautions and that was unfortunate. Once TDEC was notified, they did get on it and got the city down there. It’s kind of like closing the barn door once the horse escaped, but I’m told they are taking precautions to do that now. Clearly someone dropped the ball.”
Commissioner Peak Jones said, “The city of Cleveland does have precautions in place for that process. Where it fell through, nobody knows.”
Commissioner Elkins commented, “The city annexed that area and they pulled the general permit for that project to do the road. So, Bradley County really has no jurisdiction over it. I guess we could file a complaint with the city because where the damage is being done is inside Bradley County. It falls under the city to explore it. I think it would be appropriate for us to file a complaint with them and ask them to do this.”
Commissioner Adam Lowe said, “We went to great lengths to have meetings with people in that community. I remember listening to a very healthy active discussion about the pros and cons and figuring out how to mitigate as much as we could. I’m having trouble recalling if anyone from the city was there but it was prior to the annexation. Right now, I’m a little shattered about going to such great lengths as a county commission to try to hear from the constituents in that area. It was such a high priority in my opinion. I feel like for some reason, somewhere it stopped being a high priority.”
May I add something here Commissioner Lowe, while it was evidently labeled a “high priority” that’s all it was, a label. It was all talk and little action. This is where we always seem to get bogged down in the political machine. We gladly offer talk because it can easily be quoted in a news article, so we can cut it out and put it in our scrap book. Getting our hands dirty and doing something on the other hand is a whole new realm we seldom like to explore because it takes a little more effort.
Commissioner Yarber suggested Commission Assistant Amy Moore provide more information regarding the matter and recommended further discussion at a future work session to come up with a thought process to put in place on how to handle the situation.
Chairman Alford said, “Me and Mrs. Moore will get in touch with people from the city regarding the matter tomorrow to try to get more information. That is, if they are willing to meet with us.”
With all due respect to the Commissioners, City Councilmen and women, both Mayors, the Industrial Development Board and Doug Berry of the Chamber of Commerce, one thing clearly stands out in the paragraphs above of the coverage of tbe meeting.
We love to give lip service to the general public and say what we think the people want to hear. We are all very quick to listen to concerned citizens and their gripes and complaints and then talk about plans to fix it. This debacle has left many scampering for someone to blame with hoardes of elected and non elected officials washing their hands of the responsibility of the pollution of Brymer Creek.
Instead of one person stepping up and committing to making sure not one more ounce of pollution flows into Brymer Creek, it seems the only viable and forseeable solution is let’s talk and talk and talk about it till we have talked enough then let’s talk some more.
But when all is said and done the end result is a once clean creek is now dirty and polluted and all we have done is talk about it to the point of nausea.
Talking without followup seems to have gotten us in this dilemma. Lip service without a plan is exactly that, lip service.
Who is to blame? Ultimately the voter will decide. They will mull over the previous four years of service and make an informed decision.
It would have been so simple to take our concerns, formulate a plan, follow up on plan, provide oversight of construction and make sure that when the first scoop of dirt was moved, no runoff was going to pollute Brymer creek.
The ball was dropped indeed. Many chose to talk and even more failed to execute.
Source of info:
Please visit this site frequently as it is chocked full of note worthy news articles that affect us daily. http://www.chattanoogan.com/2012/9/5/233582/Stormwater-Runoff-Into-Brymer-Creek.