Q.-38. Will you give SASS an overview of what your research has uncovered about Springfield's role in the water-related issues you earlier said gave you the impression the city was perpetrating a cover-up?
A.-38. In answering this question, I will condense my interpretation into easy-to-follow language, occasionally quoting from a source or simply weaving facts into the text. More comprehensive reference material pertaining to facts introduced in this section can be read in greater detail in the Appendix to this Report and (Section V), REDIRECT EXAMINATION
When the flood of July 12, 2000 swept through the SASS neighborhood, it was the middle of the night. I was on my e-mail machine talking to fellow writer, Larry Skouby, also a night owl. Rain was pelting the roof so hard I took a break to look outside. Sheets of water were streaming like waterfalls from the carport entry and eaves over the back porch.
Other than one street lamp near the greenspace that once housed the home of Delmer and Kay Campbell, South Avenue was dark and glistening with rising, wind-whipped waves. Most people must have slept through the deluge that forced me to end the e-conversation and create makeshift sandbags by stuffing 30-gallon trash bags with towels, which I placed outside the front and back doors before flood waters could enter the house.
Before sealing myself in, I loaded my camera and got pictures of the back steps under water. Because of poor lighting, they turned out blurry, but those were the first of more than 1000 photos I would take over the next five-and-a-half years, because that was the beginning of a long series of annual floods or sewage backups that left sludge in my home and caused me to reactivate the old Neighborhood Watch, this time as SASS, after it became evident to me the city was not going to come to our aid, so we would have to fend for ourselves.
The reactivation of SASS might not have happened (unless someone else started it) if Harold Bengsch, then the director of Springfield-Greene County Health Department, had answered the letter I sent which provided details of the deluge and sought advice about how to clean up the muck. The shed in the carport where sludge was trapped stank for weeks and has been useless ever since, except for storing a few tools. In my letter, I suggested Mr. Bengsch write a public service feature for the Springfield News-Leader, telling the community, not just me, what to do--because this was a big flood and countless people also needed answers.
How big was it? My Honda Civic was full of black water as high as the back seat. The cost to clean the sewage-soaked upholstery was $300 at Wessel Honda..
Flood damage can be costly to clean up. Between $75 and $150 goes into yard clean-up after every flood, since trash and other debris floats north and gets stuck on my property. By the time remediation was added to clean-up costs, I was out-of-pocket by about $5000 following the flood of July 2000.
When I got no help from the Health Department, I called various agencies, including the Department of Natural Resources, and sometime between getting a tetanus shot before shoveling muck and hiring Mark Clore to dig a trench around the base of my house and install a plastic tarp and pea gravel to try and save it, I realized it was highly possible I wasn't going to get any help-- which proved true. What I didn't know then was why.
Digging up the facts you are about to read took more than five years--five unnecessary, expensive years, because if the Springfield-Greene County Health Department had simply levelled with me by answering my question(s), I would not be telling you what I now know in this Report, starting with the impression I got:
By responding to me, the city would have acknowledged the problem I was reporting-- something it apparently did not wish to do because--very possibly--it already knew about the situation that I now call the metaphorical can of worms addressed in this Report.
When I started making reports about the abysmal swamplike conditions at the juncture of Washita Street and South Avenue, the City of Springfield was already perfectly aware of what I was reporting. After all, Del Campbell had sued over similar conditions. Now, here was another disgruntled citizen picking up almost where he had left off. The city had other problems, and they were much bigger than our relatively small SASS area--or an even-smaller sole homeowner- complainant within that neighborhood.
Since the first soapy suds floated downstream in 1836, winding up as contaminant in the well downtown, Springfield's water problems have expanded along with its population. The year 2000 was not an auspicious one for Springfield, because the Department of Public Works was already caught in a massive Infiltration/Inflow clean-up project, the squeeze of which had the city caught between the State of Missouri on one side and the federal government on the other.
Back in 1986, Missouri amended its state version of the federal Clean Water Act, which mandates that every state identify sections of streams (with documented pollution problems for which existing pollution controls are not adequate) to comply with the water-quality standards for the state in which such contaminated waterways exist.
Southwest Missouri was already on record for its contaminated waterways. The predecessor of today's federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Water Pollution Agency, conducted a study of Wilson (aka Wilsons and Wilson's) Creek (which receives runoff from Springfield) in 1969 and concluded that contaminants from urban waters were causing odors and killing fish.
According to Joseph M. Richards, Hydrologist, and B. Thomas Johnson, U. S. Geological Survey, Rolla, in their "Report: Water Quality, Selected Chemical Characteristics, and Toxicity of Base Flow and Urban Stormwater in the Pearson (aka Pierson) Creek and Wilsons Creek Basins, Greene County, Missouri, August 1999 to August 2000," a 1978 study "...by Emmett and others found that summer storms combined with the wastewater effluent resulted in severe dysfunction of dissolved oxygen in Wilsons Creek and the James River downstream from Wilsons Creek The results of the investigation also concluded that the upstream reach of Wilsons Creek is affected by the runoff from the City of Springfield... "
The USGS worked with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to conduct the water-quality investigation detailed in the report. Focus of the year-long study was concentrated on determining nutrients, indicator bacteria and trace metal constituents in both Pearson's Creek and Wilsons Creek. This state-sponsored investigation was just about to reach its conclusion when the July 2000 floods hit Springfield, sending all the kinds of pollutants we got in lesser volume in our SASS area, straight into the public waterways from which thousands of people, livestock, wild creatures and pets get their drinking water.
Instead of dispatching help to a few private homeowners and residents worried about cleaning up their properties, city officials were probably wondering if the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant could handle the overload, or whether raw sewage would either infiltrate the streams accidentally or have to be released under strict standards regulating the percentage of sewage that can enter the waterways without surpassing toxic levels and becoming a public health threat of epidemic proportion.
Clear, clean water may be the elixir of life, but when it is filled with pollutants, those who drink it are ingesting the equivalent of contaminated cocktails. I was one of them.
If had known in July 2000 what I know now, I would not have ingested a single drop of tap water after the flood, but I paid for my naivete with dysentery-strength diarrhea accompanied by headache and chills. What might have been in that flood water?
Since the flooding of July 2000 was not confined to our localized SASS area, anything and everything that could have entered the stormwater drains and/or sanitary sewer drains--and undergone crossover--could have been in our drinking water, including diluted body fluids from nearby veterinarian hospitals and/or St. John's Medical Center, since floodwaters pour from the north (where two veterinary clinics were in business) into our SASS basin and gravity directs the waters in a westward direction as they are channeled to Campbell Avenue and on to the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Missouri, one of 26 states regulated entirely by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards for management of medical, dental and veterinary clinic wastes, may legally discharge liquids, including blood but excluding chemical wastes, into the city's sanitary sewer system. So may coroners and medical examiners who perform autopsies, funeral parlors that perform embalming, and taxidermists who convert dead fish, turkey and deer into mounted trophies.
According to the OSHA Compliance Manual, potentially infectious materials (to those handling them before disposing of them) include: semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, any body fluid visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids. That's not all that might have been stirred up in the soupy sludge during the flood of July 2000. Try adding: Also, any unflxed tissue or organ (other than intact skin) from a human (living or dead).
Of course, under ideal situations, such discharge in sanitary sewers is supposed to be channeled straight to the nearest POTW without stopping at your place--or mine. According to Paul Chalmer, NCMS, POTW is an acronym for "Publicly Owned Treatment Works" of which there are two in Springfield. The Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant, the larger facility, is located near Lake Springfield. The other POTW is the Northwest Wastewater Treatment Plant located NOS--meaning North of Springfield.
Besides handling the aforementioned ingredients of potentially contaminated H2o cocktails, the treatment plants also handle other kinds of waste which the city doubtless would not have wanted me to know I might be drinking if or when I drank it. For instance, lime--the disintegrated residue of mortar joints from old pipes that should be relegated to the relics pile--but are still in use. Or, how about a shot of paint thinner, or dash of crankcase oil or bleach? Under Missouri's Universal Waste Rule, which has been in effect since 1999, certain classes of waste cannot be disposed of in sanitary landfills. They include batteries, certain pesticides, and items containing mercury, including thermostats, manometers and lamps. The Universal Waste Rule is a set of federal regulations which were adopted with modifications by the State of Missouri.
According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Hazardous Waste Program Technical Bulletin (Pub. 002058), businesses" are bound by law to properly dispose of universal wastes by taking them to recycling centers, but households are not under such legal obligation.
So, when flood waters creep into your neighbor's garage and seep into sacks of fertilizer, dry cement or lye, before swirling on to your property and/or contaminating groundwater, sanitary sewer water and stormwater-drain water, you really might be drinking your H2o cocktail with a twist of lye that, were it not diluted, just might kill you.
Concern about the U. S. Geological Survey and Department of Natural Resources investigation into the waters of Pearson's Creek and Wilsons Creek was not the only issue dealing with compliance with the Clean Water Act that was of concern to the City of Springfield. It was already dealing with the EPA and DOJ, a fact I did not know at the time I sought guidance about how best to get rid of the stenchificacious sludge that might have resembled, but was not, "sewer fudge."
Earlier in the year 2000, I had served briefly as a census enumerator assigned to Republic, Missouri, but at the time of the flood the statistics about the Springfield-Greene County demographics were not yet tallied and I was no longer able to work doing follow-up counting of homes that weren't included in the first few rounds of house calls. The post-flood mess required my full attention, but I knew from experience as a census taker during 1990 as well as 2000 census some heads would never be counted..
When the U. S. Census figures were later released, they were cited in reports by various experts in their fields who included the same data almost verbatim in reports related to the local Infiltration/Inflow situation. Joseph R. Richards of the USGS included them in his report, as did Mark G. Wade, a principal player in the then-unknown (to me) citywide abatement project I will discuss in the next sub-section. Here is the Richards' version:
"Springfield is the third largest city in Missouri with a 2000 population of 151,580, and has grown 7.9 percent during the last 10 years (U. S. Census Bureau, 2001a.) The surrounding Greene County has a 2000 population 0f 240,391, and has grown 15.6 percent since 1990 (U. S. Census Bureau, 2001b.)."
The combined Springfield-Greene County population at the time the July 2000 flood- producing storms (called "rainfall events" by engineers, hydrologists and meteorologists) drenched us was officially 391,971. This figure is shy of 1/2 million 108,029. That's a lot more people using the waterways than were here in 1863 when soapsuds started the process of water pollution that steadily increased as the city grew.
At the time of the July 2000 flooding, city planners were pinning their hopes on the future, not on being underpinned by the past. The news was reporting rumblings about John Q. Hammons' interest in bringing minor-league baseball to Jordan Valley Park by building a major- league-class stadium while, in the southwest sector of town, Springfield's future growth was being taken for granted because of the dream-coming-true museum being built by Springfield's other big-money mogul, John L. Morris; now known as Wonders of Wildlife Museum, the edifice in progress was publicized as a future "shrine for hunters and fishermen." More was said about its draw of at least 6 million people (with money to spend) than the fact a legal scheme had been set into motion in which public funds were used to help finance this project I call Springfield's "pilot whale that became beached."
Pundits had been predicting that Y2K would be a disaster, with mass computer crashes and even a hit by a comet. The flooding in Springfield in July 2000 may have been a symbolic curve ball pitched onto the not-yet-materialized playing field of Hammons Field stadium in Jordan Valley Park, a warning to stop, look and listen before pushing growth too big to handle. Or, it may have warned of a bubble about to burst in the dream-museum of John L. Morris, whose Wonders of Wildlife Museum now lies within walking distance of SASS residents' doors.
Did most SASS residents realize that between the years 1994 and 2000 a shift of great magnitude had taken place without causing a single tremor in the Fassnight Fault line that runs diagonally through the Bass Pro campus, from NW to SE, cutting through the intersection of Campbell Avenue and Cherokee Street on to the SE section of the city where it disappears and then reappears on maps under a different name?
In 2000, most of my neighbors weren't even aware they were living on the down side of a major earthquake fault millions of years old that a city engineer assured me wouldn't move "unless another New Madrid quake happens." Nonetheless, a quake of socioeconomic magnitude did happen, probably registering around 9 on the metaphorical Richter scale. I mention it in retrospect so it sheds future-light on SASS and the neighborhood's relevance to the City of Springfield's Vision 20/20 plan, and to every SASS member's decision about whether to wait it out or get while the get-go is possible. That shift is in the way cities across the U.S. are now doing business by combining taxpayers' dollars with those of private entrepreneurs for upgrading of blighted areas which may or may not be seized through eminent domain proceedings, and which shift in the way cities and private businesses form partnerships that all but eliminates little people like you and me. Is this the case with City of Springfield and Wade Associates, Inc. in the. I/I issue?
Every SASS member seriously interested in getting the full story of what really happened in 1994 should take the time to read the records of city council proceedings, which are accessible on microfiche at The Library Center branch of Springfield-Greene County Library. Search for commentaries by city councilman John Wilson. Wilson stood alone on a moral platform calling for legal compliance with law, instead of going along with other council members who were probably bedazzled by or confused by financial issues that sidetracked the real purpose of enterprise-zone development: to be of benefit to a blighted or low-income community by generating business and income-producing opportunity within the area.
Following the apparent tabling of Bass Pro's 1994 expansion plans, Morris threatened to move his firm's headquarters out of Springfield unless he was allowed to build Sportsman's Park on E. Kearney Street under extended financially favorable conditions (tax incentives) like thse under which Bass Pro Outdoor World campus was already operating at 1935 S. Campbell Avenue. Was he asking the city to approve a non-contiguous extension of the Enterprise Zone? If yes, and the city conceded to his plan, how does the location far north of the original Enterprise Zone area figure in the plan, especially as it affects SASS? I have not researched this matter, but a SASS member might want to look into it.
In my opinion, Morris got what he wanted and probably gave Springfield what it wanted, because Morris moved his corporate headquarters inside the Springfield city limits, instead of going out of state. The old Zenith plant was remodeled and is now Sportsman's Park Center, world headquarters of Bass Pro which, in 1994, was the only store of its kind in the world and was Springfield's claim to fame. So, what happened next?
Morris left his offices but took his stores out of Springfield.
Through expansion of Bass Pro Shops beyond Springfield, by year 2000 John L. Morris was creating a retail empire that now exists from coast to coast. Many Bass Pro shops, like the Wonders of Wildlife Museum that was expected to attract at least six million visitors a year, are financed through a combination of public (taxpayers' money) and private funding. When government and private entrepreneurs form partnerships in business, the wheels of progress can roll like bulldozers and little people like you and me are first to get crushed, left behind or simply ignored.
As we who live in the shadow of the shrine that fell short of its expectations know, the spotlight has been shining on WOW since its opening in November 2001 while we, on the other side of that track, continue to get no attention from the media. And the wheels of progress turn in a forward-moving progression that city planners hope leads to bigger and better things, which is their job--it's what they do.
As of 2006, a lot of fingers are crossed in the hope the under-patronized WOW can be saved. It has managed to stay afloat through creative financing finagles, innovative additions such as the Indian Museum, and cash donations from John Morris's own pocket. The Canadian-based IMAX firm that was partnering in the venture backed out around a year ago, leaving Morris to build it himself, or find a new solution. If the 8-story structure is actually built, will it be a better lure for WOW visitors, or a liability the likes of which Springfield has never had to deal with before? A plus in the city's favor is that the sewage and drainage system at the Bass Pro-WOW side of Campbell Avenue is far superior to that which serves the SASS Neighborhood. Apparently expenditures on a stormwater/sewage system that serves an area where income to the city coffers far exceeds the $500+ property tax we pay annually was more important to city planners than replacing our stormwater/sewage system for one basic reason: the system on the west side of Campbell Avenue should pay for itself with income generated from tax revenue paid, largely, by visitors who don't even live in the area. Will SASS get such treatment if IMAX is not built and WOW fails? You do your math; I did mine, bearing in mind what Joseph Richards says in his USGS report: "Greene County is expected to have a population increase of about 65,000 by the year 2020 (Vision 20/20, City of Springfield, written comm., 1996).
When Fulbright spring was tapped back in 1883, did planners then know it was the water tap that turned the tide of Springfield history? Today, farmlands are rapidly being turned into housing developments in counties surrounding Greene. How much of Springfield's water supply will they share? I recall the line of the poem "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" you probably learned in school, too: Water, water every where and not a drop to drink. The same thing could happen here. I hope it does not, but with City Utilities customers now using about 34 million gallons of water per day, a lot of sewage is being flushed down the drains.
In the aftermath of the 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 floods and sewer backups, I did my math homework.
An additional 65,000 people will drive up the Springfield-Greene County official population to an all-time high that falls just 43,029 short of the half-million mark. By deducting 3,029 as an arbitrary number of residents who never will be counted, I calculated an estimated county-city combined 2020 population of 460,000 people, all deserving of fresh, safe water--and expecting their tax dollars to provide it just as we do now, and I did back in July 2000.
With such a lofty goal already set in 2000--and a sewage system so old that some manholes still had porous brick chambers and vitrified clay pipes that seeped, leaked and spewed--the City of Springfield was really dumped on by Mother Nature when the flood- producing rain events' of July left water-ravaged residents like me seeking help that never came.
After numerous disappointing attempts to cut through proverbial "bureaucratic red-tape," I had a hunch I was digging up something the city preferred remained. buried--but what?
Taking inspiration from the Native Americans whose Indian traces and paths became the white man's trade routes, roads and highways, I began forging my own trail. Unlike our Indian predecessors', however, mine was a Paper Trail and this Report is my final entry. It is my legacy to SASS, and whether you continue blazing the trail or let it end here is your decision.
So, looking back over the territory I covered in 5-1/2 years of research, here is a time- capsule review about what was going on before the floods of 2000 got me started, with post- 2000 coverage that should help you reach your verdict.