February 2004 Meeting

Monday, February 9, 2004
6:00 - 7:30 pm

Pellissippi State Technical Community College
10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville
Lamar Alexander Building
Room 223


The Coster Shop Controversy:
Geologic, Environmental, and Political Interpretations

Melanie Mayes
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830


The Coster Shop & cleanup received considerable attention from local news media beginning in April 2002 with the discovery of contaminated residential wells in south Knoxville. The Coster Shop, an historic railroad repair center located near I-275, was a former Superfund site due to widespread soil contamination consisting of asbestos, PCB, As, creosote, and diesel. Federal Empowerment Zone funds were used to purchase and prepare the inner-city location for redevelopment. Eight hundred to 3,000 truckloads of Coster materials were disposed in a privately-owned sinkhole underlain by the Lenoir Limestone in the winter of 2001. Following heavy spring rains, nearby residents observed an oily sheen in their well water, and ensuing tests by TDEC confirmed the presence of a variety of contaminants. A dye trace was undertaken in the summer of 2002 to formally establish the link between Coster materials in the sinkhole and the contaminated well water. Inconclusive results of the dye trace, however, have added a high degree of uncertainty to legal and financial implications for the City of Knoxville and its contractors. This informal presentation will explore the events leading to the disposal, the ensuing hydrogeologic investigation, and the political and environmental ramifications. Sources of data include local news reports, TDEC public files, and conversations with TDEC officials. Note that the author is not affiliated with any of the interested parties.


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