Friday, December 27, 2013

2008 comment letter to ADEM on Veolia Landfill 2006

Friends of Hurricane Creek
P.O. Box 40836
Tuscaloosa, AL 35404


To; Russell A. Kelly, Chief
Permits and Services Division
1400 Coliseum Blvd.
[Mailing address: PO Box 301463; Zip 36130-1463] 
Montgomery, Alabama 36110-2059

From; John L. Wathen, 

Dear Sir,

Please accept the following comments in reference to Veolia ES Eagle Bluff Landfill, inc. Permit # 63-16.

The permit renewal application for Veolia ES Eagle Bluff Landfill (“facility”) must be denied for the following reasons.

Ongoing Permit Violations
                        There are many permit violations currently ongoing at this facility.

Despite ADEM’s defense that there are only two inspectors for the entire north Alabama area, the facility maintains ongoing violations of state and federal law and continued non-compliance conditions.  

 The facility’s non-compliance is cause for ADEM to close the facility under Code of Alabama Section I, E, item 1 “Duty to comply”:

 “Any permit noncompliance, other than noncompliance authorized by a variance, constitutes a violation of Code of Alabama 1975, §§ 22-27-1 et seq., as amended and is grounds for enforcement action, permit suspension, revocation, modification, and/or denial of a permit renewal application.”

It is vital to understand that there is an approved T.M.D.L. for Hurricane Creek requiring a significant reduction in turbidity and siltation. The permit, as written, does not adequately address TMDL and will not prevent further degradation of Hurricane Creek.
A complete environmental impact survey should be undertaken to show how Veolia could operate without such degradation.

As of now there is runoff leaving the site from all sides and is not being treated except on the South flank. Water leaving the site from the North, East, & West are running unabated into Hurricane Creek as well as a lake owned by a local resident, then on to Hurricane Creek.
(SEE PHOTO North Face 02 & 03)

                        The Facility Fails to Maintain Proper Operation and Maintenance
The facility is in violation of Section E item 6 of the permit, which requires,

“The Permittee shall at all times properly operate and maintain all facilities and systems of control (and related appurtenances) that are installed or used by the Permittee to achieve compliance with the conditions of this permit.”

In violation of this requirement, there are currently no access roads to the sediment basins for cleanout or sampling. Both ponds are in need of proper maintenance as required by law.

Monitoring Site is Inaccessible
The end of pipe location is so heavily overgrown with briars and brush it is evident that no one has been there for sampling in years. Any reported sampling, is questionable at best given the inaccessibility of the sampling site. (See photo # 1 End of pipe)


Certification of Construction is Required
In violation of, Section I, E, item 12, the facility has failed to provide “Certification of Construction.” We submit that there has been no certification of the additional acreage being constructed in any way that will prevent the eminent discharge of pollutants into the receiving stream.  Furthermore, there are no containment ponds associated with the additional acreage.

 (See photo 2 Aerial violation 1, and 3 Aerial violation 2)

No waste can be placed on this increment until containment ponds are constructed and the current illegal discharging without a permit, and offsite damage, are mitigated. Photo 3 aerial violation 2, above, clearly shows siltation throughout the surrounding woods.

A complaint was made to ADEM field inspector Jim Parker over a year ago who, in turn, called Paul Dabbs in Montgomery. Mr. Dabbs told me on the phone on Dec. 12 that he never inspected concerning that complaint. Therefore no N.O.V was issued. He told me at that time he did not visit this site but “once a year or so”. Mr. Dabbs also informed me that he thought all of the water from the borrow pit went through the ponds. Mr. Dabbs could have never walked over this site and without knowing it does not. I suggest that in the future, inspections be done on the ground instead of from the office and car... All water leaving the “borrow pit” runs unabated and untreated into an unnamed tributary of Hurricane Creek.

I walked this tributary out from the pit to the confluence of another stream coming in from above. The stream above had no siltation. The stream coming from the borrow pit was heavily silted in and the remainder of the tributary all the way to the confluence with Hurricane Creek proper was silted in. There is a large sediment build up at the mouth of the tributary.
 (SEE photos Borrow pit 01, Borrow pit o2 fence, borrow pit 03 silted trib, Borrow pit confluence 01)
 Borrow pit 01 is looking out of the borrow pit towards the trib.

Borrow pit o2 fence is downstream of the railroad tracks. Note the silt fence hanging 2 feet above the creek. This is not proper BMP’s.

Borrow pit confluence 01, is of the confluence of the two streams.

The one on the right is coming from upstream and is clear. The one on the left is Veolia. You can plainly see the difference.

Borrow pit 03 silted trib, is just that. The condition of the stream only worsens as it progresses toward Hurricane Creek.

This has been reported to ADEM on several occasions and still remains a chronic violation of the CWA and this permits requirements. The lack of diligence on ADEM’s part, for whatever reasons, has instilled an air of arrogance in this operator toward environmental requirements and the welfare of our community. Since ADEM has been less diligent due to “manpower” problems, we believe that ADEM needs to issue less permits if they cannot adequately enforce the parameters of existing permits. The reasoning of, “we don’t have the manpower or money to do a better job” is simply admitting failure on the part of the State of Alabama. We suggest to ADEM that if you do not have the manpower to enforce permits, Stop issuing them. Before a permit is issued the data and surveys must be ground-truthed for accuracy.

There is an old discarded waste container that is being used as fuel containment. This does not meet designated spill requirements. It has a full width, walk in gate on one end. It will not contain potential spills. Fuel containment cells must be constructed all sides contained and an impervious liner installed.

Failure to Achieve Inspection Requirements
The facility is also in violation of Section I, E, item G, Line 2, and 3 “Inspection Requirements.”  “”” “The Permittee shall conduct random inspections of incoming loads.”

No such random inspections of incoming load are occurring at the facility.  It has been observed that trucks come and go all day and no one inspects the containers. The only person to see what is dumped is the bull dozier operator. It is too late then. Most of the ground photographs included here were taken while I was out there as a paying customer dumping limbs. I have never seen such inspections. Drivers I have spoken with claim never to have been inspected.

Confidential Information
                        Section I item L,Confidential Information”
In certain circumstances, none of which apply here, the Permittee may claim information submitted as confidential if the information is protected under Code of Alabama 1975, §§ 22-39-18, as amended. However, given the history of non-compliance at this facility, no information should be held confidential. All information submitted should be available for public scrutiny.

The Facility is in Violation of Open Burning Prohibition
Section II, “Open Burning” states “The Permittee shall not allow open burning without prior written approval from the Department and other appropriate agencies. A burn request should be submitted in writing to the Department outlining why that burn request should be granted. This request should include, but not be limited to, specifically what areas will be utilized, types of waste to be burned, the projected starting and completion dates for the project, and the projected days and hours of operation. The approval, if granted, shall be included in the operating record.”

There have been numerous incidents where this facility has openly burned causing noxious odors to inundate the entire area. Tuscaloosa fire Department has been called as well as ADEM. The poisonous gases emitted during one of these burns causes great anxiety throughout neighbors afraid of what they are being exposed to.

Prevention of Unauthorized Disposal
The facility is in violation of, Section II, C, “Prevention of unauthorized disposal “The Permittee shall follow the approved procedures for the detecting and preventing the disposal of free liquids, regulated hazardous waste, PCB's, and medical waste at the facility.”

On many occasions, Spanky’s Roto Rooter trucks have been seen disposing material from their septic pumping trucks and portable toilets in violation of Section II(C). Although raw sewage is not considered a hazardous waste, it is a putrescible material prohibited by the permit. On another occasion the City of Tuscaloosa Sewer department disposed of several hundred cubic feet of contaminated soil and material from a sewage spill estimated at over 1,000,000 gallons of sewage.

Facility Fails to Provide Requisite Boundary Markers
Under Section II, item E, “Boundary Markers,” the facility is required to:

Ensure that the facility is identified with a sufficient number of permanent boundary markers that are at least visible from one marker to the next.”

I have personally hiked around the entire perimeter of the facility staying, as much as possible, off the property. Since there were few boundary markers it was hard to tell when I crossed the line, if at all.

I did find one property line that was marked fairly well but not visible from the road. You have to go about 200 feet into the woods from 12th street. From there the line is marked to the railroad crossing where the markers disappear. There are a few signs along the tracks left over from the days when Superior owned the property. They run about 50 feet from the railroad tracks on the opposite side from the ponds. There are no markers anywhere around the pond. This leads me to believe that the ponds may be located off the permitted property. There are no markers along the Hurricane Creek side visible at all.

 In my opinion it has been too long since any continuous boundary markers existed. We request that a complete new survey be conducted to insure no encroachment onto private property or over filling the new area. This was observed along the line from 12th street. There were several instances where construction steel has been pushed onto private land at some time in the past. This facility has changed hands several times and I doubt in anyone there knows, without doubt where any of the property lines are located.

Waste Streams
Section III, item B, Waste Streams” which prohibits unauthorized disposal of putrescible materials. “The Permittee may accept for disposal non-putrescible and non-hazardous construction and demolition waste including but not limited to wood, trees, stumps, limbs, scrap metal, masonry, leaves, grass clippings, tires, paper, cardboard, cloth scraps, yarn, discarded appliances and similar type of wastes as allowed by ADEM.”

Old tires are not approved C&D fill materials.

On many occasions, Spanky’s Roto Rooter trucks have been seen disposing material from their septic pumping trucks and portable toilets in violation of Section II(C). Raw Sewage is a hazardous waste. On another occasion the City of Tuscaloosa Sewer department disposed of several hundred cubic feet of contaminated soil and material from a sewage spill estimated at over 1,000,000 gallons of sewage.

Appliances are not normally allowed in a C&D landfill. ADEM and Veolia propose the disposal of “discarded appliances.” While there is no formal mercury warning for Hurricane Creek in place, the entire area and most of Alabama’s streams are impaired for mercury pollution.   Because most appliances are equipped with mercury switches, which would further degrade the waters with mercury pollution, they must not be allowed in the landfill without proper impervious containment liners.  Such containment liners must be installed anywhere appliances may be placed. Whether or not Hurricane Creek is under a formal mercury advisory, all precaution must be taken to ensure that no mercury what so ever be introduced into any waterway of the United States.

Waste Placement and Cover
The facility is in violation of Alabama Code, Section III, item D, “Waste Placement and cover” which requires that:

“All waste shall be spread in layers two feet or less in thickness and thoroughly compacted weekly with adequate landfill equipment prior to placing additional layers of waste or placing the weekly cover. A minimum of six inches of compacted earth or other alternative cover material approved by the Department shall be added at the conclusion of each week's operation unless a variance is granted in Section VIII”.

In violation of this requirement, no such variance exists in this facility.  It has been observed and documented that no weekly compaction has occurred for weeks at a time. The trash is placed as much as 10 to 15 feet thick and left for weeks uncovered. With every heavy wind there is a shower of trash leaving the site.
(See Photos thick trash 01 office, 02, 03)
Thick trash 01 office was taken in front of the office. The people running this operation know it is out of compliance. They also know ADEM is not coming to inspect.

Thick Trash 02

           Thick Trash 04
The same location as 02, one week later.  There is about 15 feet of new trash on top of the 15 feet or so from prior weeks.

Thick Trash 03

Environmental Monitoring and Treatment Structures
Section III, item I, “Environmental Monitoring and Treatment Structures”
requires that:

“The Permittee shall provide protection and proper maintenance of environmental monitoring and treatment structures.”

The facility is in violation of this requirement for several reasons.
As was stated above, there are currently no access roads to the sediment basins for        cleanout or sampling. The ponds are both in need of cleaning. The road leading to the       ponds washed out over a year ago.

The end of pipe location is heavily overgrown with briars and brush making it quite evident that no one has been there for sampling in years. Any reported sampling, in my opinion is questionable at best. (See photo End of pipe 02)

Bulk or Non-Containerized Liquid Waste Prohibition
The facility is in violation of Section III, item K, “Bulk, or Non-containerized Liquid Waste” which states:

“The Permittee shall not dispose of bulk or non-containerized liquid waste, or containers capable of holding liquids, unless the conditions of Rule 335-13-4-.23(1)(j) are met.” 

The disposal of effluent pumped from septic tanks by Spanky’s sewer service violates this prohibition.  I, and several of my neighbors have observed and documented this.

Empty Containers Prohibition
The facility is in violation of Section III, item L,“Empty Containers,” which requires:

“Empty containers larger than 10 gallons in size must be rendered unsuitable for holding liquids prior to disposal in the landfill unless otherwise approved by the Department”.

In violation of this section of the code, several 50 gallon barrels, visible from the air as well as from the rail road tracks along the back side of the site, have been observed on the facility property.
(SEE photo, barrels 01)

Litter Control
The facility is in violation of Section III, item Q, “Litter Control” which states,
              The Permittee shall control litter.”

In violation of this section, litter has been observed scattered all around the outside of this site on several occasions. I found it in trees surrounding the Northeast side all along the tracks and along the road leading into the facility. There is a large amount of litter debris in and around Hurricane Creek that stems from this site.
(SEE photos, Litter 01,02,03)


 These photos were taken from various positions around the site. Litter hanging in trees and on the ground. The entire back slope along the tracks had trash scattered from top to bottom blowing in the wind.
 (SEE photos back slope)
Back Slope  

Back Slope 2  

Note the trash in the tops of the pine trees and the visible houses in the upper left corner. They get a bird’s eye view of the trash as it blows their way.

Groundwater Monitoring is Required
                        Section IV “Section IV, Groundwater Monitoring Requirements,”

“Groundwater monitoring is not being required at this landfill provided that the waste stream is in accordance with Section III.B. Should any waste be disposed other than the waste streams indicated in Section III.B, the Department may require that groundwater-monitoring wells be installed.”

In violation of this requirement, “groundwater monitoring is not being conducted at this landfill provided that the waste stream is in accordance with Section III.B. Should any waste be disposed other than the waste streams indicated in Section III.B. the Department may(must?) require that groundwater-monitoring wells be installed.”

The waste stream does not comply with permit standards thereby requiring groundwater-monitoring wells. Because ADEM has permitted the disposal of certain appliances containing mercury switches, treated lumber containing arsenic, copper and other toxic chemicals, a lined containment area is also required.

Additionally, the landfill, according to their signs at the gate, accepts old automobiles (also containing mercury switches) and tires, adequate landfill liner must also be installed to prevent the seepage of oils, antifreeze, gasoline, and other toxic products associated with oil bearing equipment into the soil and thereby contaminating ground water. There is evidence of heavy oil sheen on the top of the water in the pond. (SEE photo, Sign 01, oil sheen 01, oil sheen 02)


We further request that, should this permit be renewed, monitoring wells be placed surrounding the entire site to detect any seepage and illicit discharges through groundwater.

Surface Water Management
Under Alabama Code Section VI, “Surface Water Management,” 

“The Permittee shall construct and maintain run-on and run-off control structures to control the discharge of pollutants in stormwater. Any discharges from drainage control structures shall be permitted through a discharge permit issued by the ADEM Water Division.”

In direct violation of this requirement, there are no such structures to control the discharge of pollutants in stormater.  There are no containment ponds on the planned expansion. In accordance with statutory requirements, adequate ponds must be placed on site before any trash can be discarded there.

The expansion of this permit with this many compliance issues is ludicrous! Until the permit is brought back into complete and total compliance there should be no more acceptance of any trash.

It should be noted that the road leading into this site is not wide enough for two trucks to pass without one leaving the road or stopping all together.

There are 27 houses adjoining 12th street with most close enough that mail boxes have been knocked down by trucks pulling over to pass. The county widened the road as much as possible but it is not enough. Some mailboxes now hang over the pavement making it treacherous for residents to get their mail, especially the elderly. Many of these houses are homes of elderly with health and hearing problems. The constant stream of trucks now entering this complex is unbearable. Landowners constantly have to pickup trash that has fallen from passing trucks.

There is a cemetery adjacent to the gate to the dump with graves, literally 3 feet from the road. Passing garbage trucks rumble past covering grieving families with dust and trash. In one incident a mother was burying her young daughter. Trash trucks backed up at the gate halted the procession. One driver refused to move and blew his horn until the hearse backed around into the cemetery to let him pass. The whole procession was halted while this man broke a young girl’s funeral procession for a load of trash.

In conclusion;

This landfill facility has outlived its safe existence. To increase the size will require dirt to be hauled in to cover “EVERY WEEK”. The number of trucks will double with this increase. It is only a matter of time before someone is killed there by one of these inconsiderate drivers.

Landfills are necessary. They should, however be located in places where they have safe access and pose no threats to the environment. This one does neither of these things. It has chronic history of non-compliance and lack of diligent enforcement issues. The entire area of Holt is economically distressed, with this facility located in a densely populated predominately black neighborhood. This is a classic example of environmental injustice at best.

This landfill has become a trash mountain, visible for miles around. People should not have to invest their life’s savings into a home only to have a trash mountain rise up from the treetops in full view and smell of such facilities. When this place burns, as it does at times, the smoke can be seen and smelled by hundreds of citizens in the area.

It is time to close Veolia ES Eagle Bluff Landfill forever.

We respectfully request a public hearing to present our case. We further request that said hearing be held in close proximity to the permit so the elderly involved can attend.


John L. Wathen,
Friends of Hurricane Creek
to join FoHC visit

Creekkeeper is a member of
Waterkeeper ALLIANCE®

Who has the authority to say someone else
 is not being a good steward of the environment?

Anyone who notices 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Demolition delayed by lack of permit

Demolition delayed by lack of permit

State transportation department failed to obtain stormwater management permit

Houses destroyed by the April 27, 2011, tornado are cleared along Crescent Ridge Road and Iris Drive in Holt on May 24. Demolition was stopped Tuesday because the Alabama Department of Transportation failed to obtain a necessary permit.
Michelle Lepianka Carter | The Tuscaloosa News
By Jason Morton
Staff Writer
Published: Friday, May 31, 2013 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 10:36 p.m.
TUSCALOOSA | Less than a week after it began, the Alabama Department of Transportation has halted demolition of a series of homes damaged in the April 27, 2011, tornado.
The work stoppage was blamed on ALDOT's failure to obtain a stormwater management permit through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
“Previously, we believed no permit was necessary,” said ALDOT spokesman Tony Harris in a news release announcing the stoppage. “However, after examination by ALDOT personnel in Tuscaloosa and Montgomery, a permit is needed and work was placed on hold until that permit is issued.”
The work began May 22 and was stopped on Tuesday. In that span, 11 of about 30 homes had been cleared.
Harris said the permitting process through ADEM is expected to take about three weeks.
Once the proper environmental permits are in hand, Cahaba Disaster Recovery of Mobile will resume the $193,000 job.
The demolition and cleanup are expected to be complete by the end of September.
Tuscaloosa environmental activist and Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen alerted ALDOT to the permitting infraction.
Wathen has been critical of ALDOT's delay in clearing the homes that the agency purchased soon after the storm, saying last week that he was “disappointed” by the two-year delay. Wathen said Thursday that ALDOT should follow the same rules as other developers.
“The permit is a way for citizens to monitor the work plan and insure that proper environmental restraints are in place,” he said. “Every other developer is required to do so. ALDOT is not and should never be held above the laws everyone else has to obey.”

ALDOT spent almost $4 million to buy the properties in order to make way for the proposed Eastern Bypass highway that, if constructed, would connect Interstate 20/59 to U.S. Highway 82 in Northport.
The proposed four-lane divided highway, first suggested in 1988, now carries an estimated $250 million price tag. There is no set date for construction to begin on the bypass because of uncertain funding, according to ALDOT.
Meanwhile, the damaged homes — some still with trees across them and others since inhabited by animals and
vagrants — sat seemingly untouched for more than two years and became what nearby residents called eyesores and safety hazards.
Some of the about 37 properties contained only foundations, mobile home pads or underground septic tanks and grease traps that also will be demolished once the work resumes.
Kevin Skelton, who lives with his wife and son near several of the damaged properties, said last week that he and his wife, Judy, were glad to see some action being taken, but that they were concerned about the future upkeep of the sites.
“Yes, this takes care of the current issues, but what about the long haul?” Judy Skelton said. “They're our neighbors now, and as a community, we want them to maintain their land the same way that we do.
“We've seen what they've done, or not done, in the past.”
Reach Jason Morton at or 205-722-0200.

John L. Wathen,
Hurricane Creekkeeper
Friends of Hurricane Creek

Creekkeeper is a member of
Waterkeeper Alliance

Who has the authority to say someone else
 is not being a good steward of the environment?

Anyone who notices

Saturday, May 25, 2013

ALDOT Begins Crescent Ridge Demolition


ALDOT begins Crescent Ridge demolition 

Houses destroyed by the April 27, 2011, tornado are cleared along Crescent Ridge Road and Iris Drive in Holt on Friday
Michelle Lepianka Carter | Tuscaloosa News
By Stephanie Taylor
Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 24, 2013 at 10:57 p.m.

State removing homes damaged by 2011 tornado
Some of the last remaining tornado-damaged structures along Crescent Ridge Road are being demolished.

The Alabama Department of Transportation bought nearly 70 tracts of land that were in the path of the April 27, 2011, tornado that damaged large swaths of Tuscaloosa and eastern Tuscaloosa County. Nearly 30 damaged structures sat seemingly untouched for more than two years and became what nearby residents called eyesores and safety hazards.

ALDOT spent nearly $4 million to buy the property to make way for a proposed highway that would connect Interstate 20/59 to U.S. Highway 82 in Northport.

As recently as last week, trees still sat atop shells of houses that were missing roofs and walls. Stray animals and some people had made homes in the dilapidated structures. Open septic tanks were scattered about the area.

Crews started to demolish the structures on Tuesday. It should be about three months until all demolition is complete, said Dee Rowe, ALDOT 5th Division engineer.

Approximately 30 structures and approximately 37 properties with only foundations, mobile home pads or underground septic tanks and grease traps will be demolished, Rowe said.

ALDOT paid a contractor $192,993 to complete the job.

“It’s long overdue,” said Kevin Skelton, who lives with his wife and son near several of the damaged properties. He and his wife Judy were glad to see some action being taken this week, but they’re concerned about future upkeep.

“Yes, this takes care of the current issues, but what about the long haul?” Judy Skelton said. “They’re our neighbors now, and as a community, we want them to maintain their land the same way that we do. We’ve seen what they’ve done, or not done, in the past.”

An ALDOT engineer told The Tuscaloosa News in March that crews had inspected and maintained the properties.

“We never saw anyone out there. If they did inspect it, they did no follow up,” Kevin Skelton said.

Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen said he was glad to see the demolition underway, but he voiced concerns as well.

“I am still disappointed that it has taken years to complete what ALDOT has demonstrated only takes a few weeks when the job is done according to the laws every other citizen had to comply with much quicker,” he said. “ALDOT should never be allowed to hold themselves above those laws everyone else has to follow.”

Wathen, a longtime vocal opponent of the bypass, told The Tuscaloosa News in March that he suspected that property was being neglected in hopes that residents who stayed or rebuilt in the area would be encouraged to sell.

The proposed four-lane divided highway known as the Eastern Bypass was first proposed in 1988 and now carries an estimated $250 million price tag. There is no set date for the bypass construction because of uncertain funding, according to ALDOT. The proposed route crosses over the “M Bend” of Hurricane Creek, a popular part of the creek noted for rare wildlife and unique rock formations, and several residential areas, including the upscale growing Townes of North River neighborhood.

Judy Skelton suggested that residents of the Holt area would be better served by a new high school on the Crescent Ridge Road area property than a bypass.

Reach Stephanie Taylor at or 205-722-0210.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Malfeasance by ALDOT

Malfeasance by ALDOT

Should never be accepted as the norm

5th division Alabama Dep. of Transportation has to be one of the most inept state departments I have ever encountered. Time after time ALDOT has misquoted the truth or just not told it at all.

This recent string of malfeasance is the limit. 5th Division ALDOT needs to be completely reseated with competent people at the head.

As far back as I can remember there has been a communications problem with L. Dee Rowe, division chief ALDOT 5th division. I sincerely believe she is incapable of performing transparently or truthfully. She obviously doesn't have the skills to keep her employees on task to complete jobs under her command.

After the tornado of April 27th, 2011, ALDOT purchased over 30 homes damaged or destroyed by the storm. Rules were passed at the city and county level demanding that ALL houses and structures left by the tornado MUST be demolished within a specifies time frame. ALDOT made some closed door meetings to allow the houses to remain after the deadline. Why? It is my sincere opinion that this has been done intentionally to reduce the land values here to accommodate purchase of properties for the Eastern Bypass.

The house above was in the process of being torn down by FEMA and the county I was told. The minute ALDOT got the landowner to sign the sale papers the crews were told to stop demolition at once and the house still stands as it was that day. WHY?

There is no other reason I can come up with except that it was intentional.

In June of last year, I asked why the houses were left in this deplorable condition and was met with "misquotes". ALDOT claimed that the houses had already been placed on a list for bids. They also told Isaiah Harper of 33/40 news the same thing.

After this story ran, it was weeks before ALDOT responded to the problem by boarding up some of the houses but leaving more than a dozen crushed septic tanks open to the public to fall in or be made sick from the gasses and mosquitoes created by the open tanks. The houses were boarded up at the request of the Sheriffs office after an attempted abduction there.

Nearly a year later we had to get 33/40 to come back out as well as the T'News to run stories about why ALDOT had still not honored the promise to fix the problems left by their  premature purchases of dilapidated houses for the Eastern Boondoggle.

33/40 ran this piece recently... 

A lot of information was left out of the first stories so I ran a piece in this blog to cover the "rest of the story" as Paul Harvey used to say.

Stephanie Taylor, Tuscaloosa News also ran this story.

ALDOT came and filled in only the holes I sent pictures of but once again claimed the entire area was made safe and secure by David Kemp of ALDOT 5th division. He later recanted saying "I must have quoted it wrong" That was after 33/40 put him on the spot about past "misinformation" he spread about is failure to perform his job.
That wasn't the end of it.
After the story ran on 33/40 and T'News, I got a couple of calls asking if I had seen Cherrywood Circle? Rumors of open septic tanks and foul odors were enough for me to go and look. In about 30 minuted on the ground, I had located at least 9 more open septic tanks right in the middle of survivors who were trying to rebuild their neighborhood. All were open and full of putrid water and most were visible from Google Earth!
No excuses for not knowing the locations of the tanks
Once again, I called in the media since ALDOT 5th division was consistently quoting it wrong as David Kemp claimed. This time I sent the photos to Montgomery ALDOT headquarters. Within less than an hour of a phone call with ALDOT in Montgomery, an army of trucks, heavy equipment, subcontractors, and ALDOT 5th division leaders (or should I say lack of leadership) all showed up as if the Bryant bridge was falling! A huge effort was made to close the tanks before the media showed up but it didn't work.
ALDOT showed up just before 5 P.M. at the wrong location.
I sat in my truck across the field and watched them assemble. All of this happened within minutes of the call to Montgomery but Rowe and Kemp had been "missing" the tanks in their "weekly inspections" where Kemp was quoted as saying “ALDOT has been maintaining property and making weekly inspection throughout the acquisition process,” Kemp wrote in an email to The Tuscaloosa News. “Structures have been secured and maintenance forces have removed non-structural debris from the area."He must have "quoted it wrong" again!

L. Dee Rowe refused to be interviewed but told 33/40 off camera that she had only been told of these last week. Neighbors in the area state that they have been calling about the stench for over a year now. Maybe Dee "quoted it wrong" too!
L. Dee Rowe, ALDOT 5th Division Chief
 It did my heart good to see all of the ALDOT 5th division leaders stomping around the tall grass looking for liabilities they should have closed almost 2 years ago now.
L. Dee Rowe, ALDOT 5th division chief (center) finally does her job.

They worked until about 9:45 that night with beepers, diesel engines, clanging of equipment and even hammers 1/4 mile away were heard banging nails into houses Kemp claimed were "secure"

Isaiah ran this story...
ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Now you might think that would be enough to get ALDOT to do a comprehensive search of all of their properties to see f anymore liabilities remained. They looked all around where I was parked on the Right of Way. They carefully avoiding close contact with me or my cameras. In doing so, they left another open septic tank for several days more. Isaiah Harper and I went back to the site on Mon. 3 days later and it was still open. On inspection, I found a dead cat bloated and decomposing in the tank. I bet someone was wondering "now why doesn't that darned cat come home?"

I sent pictures of the tank to Montgomery again but this time something really happened.  A crew of ALDOT workers showed up with tiny orange flags to walk out the entire area over a couple of days.
It looked like about 10 people in all which should have pointed out any remaining problems. After they left, I went back and the open septic tank was still there and open to the public! Once again, I notified Montgomery and copied the news along with 33/40. THE TANK WAS COVERED THAT DAY!

If 5th division was run by competent leaders, none of this would have been necessary! 


It's time for Governor Bentley to take action here since it is evident ALDOT leaders are not. We need truthful and transparent leaders at ALDOT, not the current L. Dee Rowe T and company!
Enough is enough!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Friends of Hurricane Creek Cleanup

Friends of Hurricane Creek

2013 cleanup

May 04, 2013

Starting @ 9 A.M.

Friends of Hurricane Creek would like to invite you to the 2013 Hurricane Creek Cleanup

HC Cleanup 2011

 This year we will host the cleanup at Watson's Bend as usual but with a twist.

We have been diligently working to clean up the Apr. 27th, 2011 tornado. Most of the campground has been cleared of the large trees and what's left is limbs that will be chipped into mulch for use in the community and our trails.

This year we will be partnering with Mercedes Benz for the first time. We would like to send a big round of thanks to them for being good neighbors over the years in Hurricane Creek Basin.

There will be a BBQ lunch for volunteers and lots of fun on the creek for all!

For more information contact Your Hurricane Creekkeeper or leave a message @ 205/507/0867  

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

5th Divison ALDOT Needs to Come Clean

5th Divison ALDOT Needs to Come Clean

Time after time ALDOT 5th Division has made statements that simply do not add up to the truth. Starting years ago when the Eastern Bypass was first introduced to the present, ALDOT has low-balled the price and made claims of total compliance. What I have seen and documented over the same span has been quite a different scenario. There's no room here to go into all of the details but here is a link to my comments to ALDOT at the last "hearing". 

What I want to expose today is the latest string of ALDOT "misquotes". 

Isaiah Harper, 3340 News ran a story nearly a year ago concerning the houses along Crescent Ridge Road and why they were still standing. ALDOT's David Kemp told Harper then that the bids had been let out and all the houses would be torn down soon.

Flash forward to March 15, 2013. ALDOT once again said the bids had been let out and the houses would be torn down by April. When Harper asked David Kemp why it hadn't been done his response was mostly double talk and the line "Du, we must have quoted it wrong." 

How do you quote something wrong when you didn't post the bids at all? Once, I could believe this but the exact same thing was told to the Skelton family years ago when they bought the family home under a "hardship purchase". Months after the purchase the family asked why the house was still standing and the response was "we have let the bid our and we are waiting for the contractors to respond".
It doesn't take years to get a bid.
SUNDAY March 24th, 2013, Stephanie Taylor of the Tuscaloosa News wrote a feature piece on the latest issue where ALDOT's David Kemp must have "must have quoted it wrong".

"ALDOT Fifth Division Chief Engineer David Kemp said that non-structural debris has been removed from the area and that plans have been made to demolish the structures this spring" David Kemp.
Mr. Kemp was further quoted as saying... “ALDOT has been maintaining property and making weekly inspection throughout the acquisition process,” Kemp wrote in an email to The Tuscaloosa News. “Structures have been secured and maintenance forces have removed non-structural debris from the area." Take a look for yourself at photos taken the same day the story ran. You will see doors broken in, windows open, no doors at all, beds made with sheets were people have been sleeping (or other things) in there. 
creekkeeper_2008's ALDOT Crescent Ridge Road album on Photobucket
 Trees still lay on houses that were there April 27th 2011.
 “ALDOT has been maintaining property and making weekly inspection throughout the acquisition process,” David Kemp. He must have quoted it wrong again.

“It looks like a war zone,” said Holt resident John Wathen, a longtime vocal opponent of the bypass and, as Hurricane Creekkeeper, an advocate for the protection, preservation and restoration of the Hurricane Creek watershed. “We deserve better.”

Far more alarming than the open houses was the open septic tanks! I found at least 4 septic tanks broken open for months. If ALDOT has been inspecting for the last year then I have to assume that these were known to ALDOT and they consider this to be "secure" and "maintained".
creekkeeper_2008's Open ALDOT septic tanks album on Photobucket
He must have quoted it wrong again!

Many out here have become accustomed to the war zone like appearance and consider it a warped sort of normal now. That is a sad statement of our times. It is especially hard for some of the elders left here to drive by the houses owned by ALDOT that still bear the body count and search numbers along the streets. It creates a sort of stress related PTSD not known to anyone else in the county because it has been cleaned up everywhere else but the Eastern Boondoggle corridor!

Empty prescription bottles on the ground
These so-called "secured" houses have become havens for drug and other criminal activity. It makes our community unsafe and undesirable to anyone wanting to build anything new here. Empty pill bottles and alcohol containers litter the floors inside houses that are still dry enough to get some sleep or party. Sheets have been placed on one of the beds dragged up close to a broken out window.
Bed semi made with books and bottles all around

 Whether ALDOT ever demolishes the houses or gets to build the Eastern Boondoggle, we the tax paying citizens of Tuscaloosa County (and in fact the nation since this is a federally funded project) deserve truthful and transparent officials at the state departments. If the people at 5th Division ALDOT can't be forthright and honest in their comments then let them be gone.

(All comments, opinions, and photos by John L. Wathen)