The new owner of an environmentally threatened and degraded island in the Tennessee River has already been sued for failing to respond to state requests for a plan to remediate pollution in the river caused by sections of the bank collapsing into the river. In addition, the state has requested an injunction to force the current owner to take specific corrective measures immediately.

Swallow Bluff Island, about 69 acres in the Tennessee River near Savannah, was purchased originally in March 1999 by Blankenship Melton Real Estate for development of 21 expensive homes, an airstrip and a boat dock. Construction apparently proceeded without the necessary permits. In the course of grading with backhoes, mussel beds were crushed and banks were stripped of vegetation so they collapsed, exposing a layer of American Indian artifacts. An Indian mound was breached. The construction sent a muddy plume of silt into the water, which constitutes pollution.

After numerous warnings from various state agencies, fines, site visits, notices of violation, cease-and-desist orders and finally a $228,000 fine, the property was sold in a foreclosure sale to B&H Investments in September 2000.

The state attorney general's office informed the new owner in late November that he was responsible for the cleanup of Swallow Bluff Island and it set a date of February 7 by which it wanted the new owner to file a remedial action plan.

Last week, Jack Wade, an environmental specialist with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's water pollution control division, visited the island by boat. He observed and reported in an affidavit that "the erosion of the island banks was still progressing at an advancing rate toward a vertical face around much of the island. There appeared to be thousands of cubic yards of destabilized sedimentary deposits poised to collapse into the water. There were no visible erosion control measures in sight."

The state had not heard from B&H Investment by its deadline and so filed its suit on February 12. wrote a lengthy article about the Swallow Bluff situation on November 30, 2000. If you would like to read it, please go to the archives and enter the word "swallow" in the left search column.