Wayne County, Occidental to Clean up Mercury-contaminated Bridges
Glenn Springs Holdings, an affiliate of Occidental Chemical Corp., will initially remediate three bridges in Wayne County, Tenn.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Wayne County and Occidental Chemical Corporation to assess and remove or contain mercury at specific bridges in Wayne County believed to be constructed of former mercury cell parts.
The MOU outlines an initial path forward, focusing on the first three bridges to be remediated, as well as parts located at the Wayne County Highway Department yard. Glenn Springs Holdings, Inc., an affiliate of Occidental Chemical Corporation, will be responsible for implementing the MOU.
“We believe these bridges were constructed of former mercury cell parts from a chlor-alkali plant,” said Environment and Conservation Deputy Commissioner Paul Sloan. “It is important to point out that Occidental Chemical Corporation does not own these bridge materials. We commend Occidental Chemical Corporation for cooperatively applying their expertise to work with TDEC and Wayne County to find a timely solution that is protective of both human health and the environment.”
The cooperating parties agree to share technical data and other information about the bridges and will continue to keep the public informed. Regarding the three bridges and yard material outlined in the agreement, Occidental will be responsible for:
- developing work plans for TDEC’s review and approval;
- containing or removing bridge materials containing mercury and cell parts at the highway department yard; and
- assisting TDEC in inspecting other bridges as identified by the department.
Glenn Springs Holdings has mobilized technical resources and will begin field work immediately. Wayne County has agreed to:
- provide property as needed for staging areas and to arrange access to private property;
- provide employees and equipment as needed; and
- obtain any necessary permits.
Once the first three bridges and highway department materials are appropriately remediated, all parties will meet to determine next steps.
As part of an ongoing investigation, the Department of Environment and Conservation has identified 64 bridges as potentially being constructed of former mercury cell parts. The mercury was found in material on the underside of the bridges that has characteristics similar to concrete. The bridges in question are small, typically one-lane, weathered bridges with metal driving surfaces primarily used on small public roads and for private driveway crossings. The department continues to urge caution around these structures.
People in an area where they can see a bridge that meets the description above, should not go under the bridge, should stay out of the creek in the vicinity of the bridge and should not consume fish from that area. It is also important that people do not tear down these bridges because this could break up the mercury-containing material, creating an inhalation hazard. Driving and walking over the bridges, however, does not pose a risk and they remain open to daily vehicle use.