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Hundreds of Old Hickory neighbors 'furious' over asphalt plant construction

Hundreds of Old Hickory neighbors 'furious' over asphalt plant construction (FOX 17 News)
Hundreds of Old Hickory neighbors 'furious' over asphalt plant construction (FOX 17 News)
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Furious, frustrated, and outraged are just some words hundreds of Old Hickory community members use to describe their thoughts on an asphalt plant coming to their backyard.

Chris Sullivan lives less than a mile away from this proposed asphalt plant. He takes his daughter to Old Hickory beach all the time, which is less than 2,000 feet away from the plant.

“There’s a risk we’d go to a different park. I mean there’s no reason to expose your child to harm if you can avoid it,” says Sullivan.

He’s one of more than 400 neighbors that sent an email to Metro’s Health Department opposing the plant, expressing the quality of life, health, and pollution concerns.

When Dana Morris bikes down to the beach access, she sees folks fishing, and children playing, enjoying the wildlife.

“I cannot imagine that if this floods, that that will not be an issue in the future, that our water would not be contaminated,” says Morris.

Megan Hinton is worried about her three kids.

“All of them love to be outside when it’s nice outside, and I don’t see them wanting to go out there if all they’re going to be doing is smelling this asphalt smell,” says Hinton.

One asphalt plant engineering expert from Lipscomb University, Todd Lynn, says the concerns are understandable, but modern plants are designed to be environmentally friendly.

But Lynn believes it's a healthy part of the permitting process to make sure these companies are monitoring both the air and water quality in a responsible way.

“Both the regulatory agency as well as the asphalt producer are gonna be required to show that the impact is minimal or tolerable. I totally understand the concern and really, I think it’s healthy from the standpoint of accountability and even after a plant has been installed,” says Lynn, who’s also the Chair of Lipscomb’s Civil Engineering Department.

While many of these neighbors are thankful city leaders allowed them to voice their concerns, ultimately the Director of the Air Pollution Control Division, John Finke, responded in favor of the asphalt plant.

Finke states there was no legal basis for denying the issuance of the air pollution construction permit after conducting two different modeling studies where both showed minimal impact from the proposed plant.

FOX 17 News requested an interview with Finke but was directed back to his response.

But for these community members, that answer doesn’t sit well with them.

“Do you feel city leaders are listening to what you all have to say?” asks FOX 17 News’ Amanda Chin.

“Obviously not. They’re not listening, and I think they should give us a room to speak to these guys,” says Hinton.

“I don’t think they are. I think that the public meeting they had was just giving us lip service. At the end of the day, our concerns did not matter,” believes Morris.

But these community members are no strangers to the debate over industrial sites.

In 2017, neighbors complained about the smell and health risks associated with the Hoover Asphalt Plant, which ended up shutting down shortly after.

Neighbors are worried the same will happen once Jones Brothers builds its asphalt plant.

Jones Brothers is one of the biggest construction companies in the southeast, a company, along with its affiliates, that has been awarded more than one billion dollars in contracts by TDOT since 2008.

These neighbors say Jones Brothers has not reached out or participated in any public comment meetings and has yet to respond to any of their concerns.

FOX 17 News tried emailing and calling Jones Brothers several times to ask if they would be able to answer community frustrations, but we were not able to get ahold of anyone.

We even went to Jones Brothers headquarters in person, and no one was available to speak with us.

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