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Monday, October 18, 2010

Washington Bottoms

This is the first "Hot Zone." It is the Washington Bottoms neighborhood in the northern area of Midtown Memphis.

It once was blue-collar neighborhood, filled with small bungalow homes, multi-family apartment complexes, and overall, life.

Today, this 26 acre site is a target for drug users, arsonists, and criminals. Approximately 1/3 of the land has been cleared, and slowly the remainder is being demolished.

The problem? Mid 20th century construction and current demolition techniques. These buildings are filled with the relics of these families, many of which contain toxic elements and the worst.. Asbestos.

The inhalation of asbestos can cause numerous problems, including lung cancer. It also has the long term potential to turn this possible greenspace, park, or revitalized neighborhood into a brownfield, land which will require extensive rehabilitation before it can be used.

This land needs to be cleared in an environmentally friendly manner. Not only is this a case for this parcel, but the people who live around it. When the buildings fall, a massive amount of dust is generated, with winds of just 10 mph, it can spread for blocks, polluting everything it touches. Also, after the buildings are gone, when a drought like the one we are currently experiencing occurs, the top soil turns to even more dust! Possibly polluting the area again and again for years to come.

The other problem has nothing to do with dust, in fact.. quite the opposite. When rain falls, it runs out of these areas, due to the uneven terrain Memphis is built on. This runoff carries with it the pollution and materials on the top layer of soil. If these buildings are demolished incorrectly and the asbestos is freed to the soil, the first rain to run off will be loaded with this pollutant. Considering that some of Washington Bottoms is low land (hence the bottoms name), this pollution could be trapped and concentrated, further ruining the soil and increasing the chances of a dust borne pollutant cloud forming.

What does this have to do with Bomb The Blight? Simple.. plants. They bind the soil, preventing the creation of dust. They also help to rehabilitate the soil, capturing pollution and forcing it further underground. They also help with erosion control, preventing the concentration of this pollution.

While I hope that the governmental and corporate bodies which are running this demolition listed to the citizens around this area and all over Memphis and demolish these structures in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way, this project can be part of the insurance this area needs, to make it a better place overall.

After all this heavy stuff, here is something lighter. On a visit to this area a while back, I got a quick snapshot of a mother cat and her kitten on the porch of one of the derelict houses. I think it shows that life springs eternal, even in the worst parts of town.

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