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The Creekstravaganza and Creek Wood Art Contest and Exhibit brought together local artists, students, and creek lovers to celebrate Hurricane Creek and those members of the community who love it and wish to preserve it for future generations. John Earl and John Wathen worked together to document this event with photographs so we can share it with others.
by Maurice Clabaugh
The first place winner in the adult category has been accepted as a permanent exhibit at the Tuscaloosa City Hall as a memorial to the victims of the April 2011 tornadoes and a symbol of hope for rebuilding our future.
Maurice presented his art piece to the Tuscaloosa City Council on the first Tuesday of October. Everyone was visibly impressed, and we were proud to give back to the community in which we find our roots.
The winners of the Creek Wood Art Contest & Exhibit are as follows:
The Friends of Hurricane Creek celebrated the creek and local wood artists with the community last night at the Creekstravaganza.
Christina and Heidi take care of business at the registration table.
Tricia Schuster chats with Wade Wells and his family over dinner. Mr. Wells assisted Tricia
in preparing the wood for her students. His son (to the right) won "Best In Show" award last year
for a woodcarving he made. We were honored to have them with us for dinner.
Young artists and older artists meeting together as equal partners in a
project to reclaim tornado wood for good.
Adults and kids line up to eat delicious food prepared by Studio B Catering with locally-grown
vegetables. Unfortunately, they operate out of Birmingham. We are willing to bet that a local catering
company who decides to cater with locally-grown produce would do very well at FOHC events.
It was great to have an event where young people are welcome as well as their parents.
The young have a lot to teach us about the value of our local creeks.
People expressed their love for the creek with drawings and sketches.
The sun set in all sorts of shades and colors.
Tricia Schuster exchanges wood thoughts with Mr. Watson, the owner of Watson's Bend
and the man whose wood made this entire project possible.
The Hurricane Creek Rescue Band, including Buddy Martin, Randy Palmer, Clay, got together
for one night to play music and celebrate the creek.
After the sun had finally set, everyone sat down to discover the winners of the Creek Wood Art Contest. A panel of judges, including Bebe Barefoot, David Allgood, Claire Lewis Evans, Amos Kennedy, Soapy Jones, and Maurice Clabaugh (who recused himself from the selection for the Adult category) met earlier in the month and spent an evening selecting winners for three categories- 3rd-5th grade, 6th-8th grade, and Adult.
Alina Coryell, a Board member of FOHC, announced the winners and thanked the participants and sponsors of the event. The winners were as follows:
1st Prize: "Ironwood Blossom" by Maurice Clabaugh
2nd Prize: "Remembrance" by John Steven Kirkpatric
3rd Prize: "Hippo" by Tyler Aldijaini
6TH-8TH GRADE CATEGORY
1st Prize: 6th Grade of Holy Spirit School
2nd Prize: 8th Grade of Holy Spirit School
3rd Prize: 7th Grade of Holy Spirit School
Special Recognition: "Amor Es Caecus" by Louise Whiting
3RD-5TH GRADE CATEGORY
1st Prize: "Reoccupy Tree" by the 4th Grade of Holy Spirit School
2nd Prize: 3rd Grade of Holy Spirit School
3rd Prize: 5th Grade of Holy Spirit School
Joshua Turner, a student at Holy Spirit School, created a dancing stick figure from tornado wood. He explained, “I kept thinking about all the trees that were down after the tornado and how I felt seeing them- thinking about the people who lost so much. This is me trying to make people smile.”
"Hippo" by Tyler Aldijaini won 3rd prize in the Adult Category.
"Amor es Caecus" by Louise Whiting won Special Recognition from the judges.
"Stringy Bird" by Anna Simon.
Marley, another Holy Spirit student who enjoys hiking Hurricane Creek, created a string wood art piece called "Resurrection". She wrote: “I hope that Hurricane Creek will resurrect back into the beautiful forest it once was so my family can go back and play. And also, people need to PICK UP THEIR TRASH!” We agree with Marley- and that's what Friends are for.
Sue and Len Blackshear, longtime Friends of Hurricane Creek and
residents of Bee Branch, enjoyed the evening and the music.
Jimmy Watson receives his awards from Alina.
Landowner and conservationist Jimmy Watson was honored for his wood donations with a card and a prize-winning "Reoccupy Tree" from the 4th grade class of Holy Spirit School, as well as painting of the creek made by a student at Brewer's Porch.
The Educators Alliance honored two local teachers with the First Annual Environmental Educator Award, given to Tuscaloosa County educators who show a remarkable desire to educate students about local ecology and natural resources across the curriculum.
Keith Summerford, a social sciences teacher at Southview Middle School, receives his EE Award.
Keith also donated four wood paintings to the Art Exhibit and the Silent Auction Fundraiser
which followed. His efforts alone raised over $100 dollars for FOHC and the
Kentuck Arts Center.
Tricia Schuster, the art teacher at Holy Spirit School, receives her EE Award. Tricia
singlehandedly entered her almost all her students in this exhibit and proved what
happens when a teacher combines reusing natural resources with her art lessons-
everybody wins, everybody learns, and wood is reused for good.
Maurice Clabaugh holds up his first-prize winning trophy, a sculpture made from
Black Warrior River clay by local clay artist Hayes Dobbins. Event "MC" Alina
Coryell observed, "It's great to reward good art with good art."
Jimmy Watson and his daughters, Dyane and Janet, enjoy the exhibit with
Creekkeeper John Wathen. Dyane and Janet are new to the Board of Friends
of Hurricane Creek.
John Wathen congratulates first prize winner Maurice Clabaugh.
Creekkeeper John Wathen celebrates with second prize winner John Steven Kirkpatrick.
Mr. Kirkpatrick donated his winning piece to the Silent Auction, where it brought
a hefty award for FOHC and the Kentuck Arts Center.
How the comfort birds flew from Gurley to Tuscaloosa
Comfort birds from caring hands.
The North Alabama Woodcarvers Association went out of their way to drive down from Gurley, Alabama to Watson's Bend and pick up wood scraps for the Creek Wood Art Exhibit. Tom Horn's wife even typed and lettered little notes to accompany the 180 "comfort birds" carved by NAWA members for victims of the 2011 Tuscaloosa tornados.
"We may live faraway away, but we want those who lost things in the tornado to know we are thinking about them- that they are on our minds and in our thoughts. Maybe they will get to the point when they can pass their bird on to another in need."
In our phone conversation, Tom said that he and his friends carved each little bird to bring hope and comfort to families who lost their homes (and everything in them). While picking up scrap wood from Watson's Bend, Tom also gave a comfort bird to Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen, who is also a victim of the 2011 tornado.
Each comfort bird was individually hand-carved by a NAWA member- you can find the initials or signatures on the bottom or underside of the bird tails.
The various types of wood brought down by the tornado are evident in the varying colorations and patterns of the comfort birds. From ironwood to pine, the tornado wood is being used for good by a community committed to physical and spiritual recovery.
Since Habitat for Humanity has done an incredible job of working with local tornado victims, the Friends of Hurricane Creek were excited when Bob Johnson agreed that Habitat would be "the best group" to distribute the tornado art donations.
See the comfort birds up close and personal
If you'd like to personally see and smell these beautiful comfort birds, visit the Creek Wood Art Exhibit at Georgine Clark Gallery behind Kentuck Arts Center in downtown Northport, Alabama. Visitors are welcome anytime between 9 am and 5 pm on weekdays and 9 am to 12 pm on Saturdays. Please stop by the front office of the Kentuck Arts Center for a key to the gallery.
Support the North Alabama Woodcarvers Association
If you'd like to see more of the thoughtful art created by the NAWA, mark November 3rd and 4th on your calendars. This will be the day of the 31st Annual Show and Competition at the Huntsville Depot Roundhouse at 320 Church Street in Huntsville, Alabama. Admission is free, and the exhibit is open to the public from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 4 pm on Sunday. This event will feature demonstrations, collectibles, fine art, decoys, caricatures, gifts, holiday ornaments, and door prizes. Don't miss it.
Steve Ginzbarg prepares to conduct a fly-over of the Hurricane Creek watershed.
Curtis and Bill.
Roadside cleaning for the Annual Clean-up.
The Clean-up crowd takes a break.
Kyle and another Friend.
Randy Mecredy, a founding member of Strokers Paddle Club, prepares canoes for the cleanup.
The M Bend.
John and a Friend enjoy the canoe in high water. This is not for the novice paddler or kayaker.
Steve and John chat.
This is the story about how any citizen can facilitate scientific understanding and documentation of environmental issues in a local watershed.
The Reichhold Chemicals Site
Reichhold Chemicals Inc. owns a 170-acre site located on the Black Warrior River in Holt, Alabama. Between 1950 and 1987, Reichhold manufactured industrial resins, organic chemicals, and chemical coatings at this location. A 40-acre operations area with production and related buildings lies along the south bank of the river, while a 130-acre area neighbors the productions area just to the south, uphill in hilly terrain.
During the 1980's, reporting by Reichhold and regulatory actions by ADEM "established that a multiple-celled landfill with three associated lagoons was used for onsite disposal of wastes". According to the most recent report by ADEM dated 9/23/2011, "no structures remain in the landfill area."
Many longtime Friends of Hurricane Creek expressed concerns about the confluence where the creek meets the Black Warrior River. I've heard stories of purple goo oozing up from the dirt and pools of lavender liquid with dead fish floating in the Warrior. So, earlier this year, a few of us began investigating the history of Reichhold Chemicals plant which once operated at the mouth of the creek. What we found was rather disconcerting.
Effects on Hurricane Creek
In March and April of 2011 in response to a Congressional request, ADEM inspected the Reichhold site to determine its potential to qualify as a Superfund, or CERCLA, site. There are 24 delineated wetland pathways along the surface-water pathway, totaling 12.5 miles of wetland frontage. One of these wetland areas is Hurricane Creek which lies to the east, and is specifically referenced at several points in ADEM's most recent report (see Section 4.2).
In February 2011, as a follow-up to the 2012 inspections, ADEM personnel performed a focused sampling event of surface water at the site. The samples were analyzed for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), and dissolved metals.
Three water samples were collected- one from outfall zone 6, one from outfall zone 7, and one from the confluence of the Hurricane Creek and the river. Outfalls 6 and 7 drain into Hurricane Creek at short overland distances, 1,300 and 1,500 feet, respectively. In a sense, all three samples concerned the creek. Run-off from outfall 7 enters the creek at a southeastern portion of the site.
The water sample results reflect the presence of Chemicals of Concern (COC) at levels which range from mere presence, in which case they show up under Method Detection Limit (MDL), or significant presence to cause known harm, in which case they show up under Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL).
According to this report, Hurricane Creek is the most sensitive resource (i.e. "wetland") likely to be impacted by the surface-water pathway along Reichhold. Unfortunately, the end result for the stream's integrity remains unclear: "A release of hazardous materials from the Site the Surface Water Pathway (SWP) is suspected but not confirmed."
Michael Cruise's Site Inspection
The history of this industrial site is not a pleasant one for our creek. Surface soil tests in 1988 indicated elevated levels of chromium, lead, nickel, manganese, phenol, and pentachlorophenol. On April 5, 2010, Michael Cruise visited the site pursuant to the Congressional inquiry and discovered a number of issues of concern which FOHC cannot easily address due to lack of access to the Reichhold-bordered portion of the creek.
Among these concerns:
Due to the steep banks of Hurricane Creek, Michael was unable to check the creek banks for leachate (though they did return later for the soil samples with the help of Tuscaloosa EMA). He told his assistant that they would need canoes to reach this area and properly check Hurricane Creek before they could determine any contamination. We are grateful to him for his thorough reporting and observation.
The Deep Disposal Well
Records of an experimental deep disposal well drilled to dispose of toxic waste effluents from the Reichhold plant left no indication as to who was currently responsible for maintaining the 8,000 ft. wells. After asking hither and thither, no one seemed to know anything about the existence of these wells- except the all-knowing archivists at the GSA, who passed a Bulletin published in 1973 my way. To help me in my queries with scientists and specialists, I put together a report including all the available data on the Reichhold deep disposal well (see document below).
After speaking to the Oil and Gas Board of the GSA, I learned that the Reichhold deep disposal well had been filled with cement and closed. This still didn't answer any questions about how much waste had been poured into it, and whether this waste was a potential contaminant of our aquifer or the Warrior River. Oil and Gas suggested I speak to ADEM about this matter.
Working with ADEM to Learn More
If you've never spoken to officials at ADEM, I suggest you reserve an afternoon for making phone calls to various persons because, more than likely, you will be passed around like a hot potato. After speaking to at least five different persons, I finally got in touch with Michael Cruise, who handles CERCLA and, coincidentally, Reichhold.
When I first explained the deep disposal well and inquired about its precise location, Michael lost his cool- "I'm sorry, you cannot call here and tell me something like that without documentation, ma'am! I have walked that site so many times and I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF A deep disposal well at that location!"
Fortunately, I was able to quickly email the report above to him. Even after reading a few paragraphs and citations, he remained incredulous. He asked for all my contacts at the GSA, which I happily provided. He was clearly, understandably disconcerted.
Honestly, I think Michael got upset because he had no record and no knowledge of this well. He compared me to "people calling him excited about people in gas masks from the EPA sneaking through their basement at night". Rather than get upset, I laughed and reminded him that my call was a friendly one and I hoped he could help us get to the bottom of these mysterious wells.
The Good News
Several days later, Michael called me with good news. Ultimately, the news he provided was good enough to frame.
Holding a large paper file from a file cabinet, Michael reported that the Reichhold deep disposal well/s had never been used because surface retention ponds were deemed "less expensive" by Reichhold Industries. An unfortunate private-public partnership in which taxpayer dollars were used to fund something that was then quickly discarded? Or a blessing in disguise given the proximity of several fracking wells during the same time period? I do think there is still a mystery here, though I leave it for others to sort.
As the primary environmental scientist working on the Reichhold site, Michael is probably the closest thing to an Alabama expert on this matter as possible. No one knows more about the soils, chemicals, and wastes left by Reichhold. That's why it seemed important that he know about this disposal well. As he pointed out, "That's what I get paid for."
The Future of Reichhold Along Hurricane Creek
Michael recently reported to the EPA that the Reichhold site is not a Superfund, or CERCLA, site. You can read his thorough and very detailed 400-plus page Remedial Site Assessment Report online right here.
When I asked about land use restrictions given the past history of contamination, Michael told me that Reichhold is "not looking to sell that property". Thus Reichhold Chemical Industries remains responsible for this site. ADEM often has to use lawyers to get the rights to visit some of these industrial sites.
You can access Michael's other reports on Reichhold Chemicals at the Efile page on the ADEM website. Check the "Land" box and include E-file permit number ALD004002838. There should be more Reichhold than you can imagine for the picking.
Hopefully, the information about the disposal wells will be included in the Reichhold documents soon since a half-told story does not meet the demands of the scientific process.
To learn more about the fascinating and rather convoluted history of the Reichhold plant, consider the following articles:
"Pilgrimage" by Nancy Callahan
One of the main problems for local waterways is so common as to be easily overlooked. In an extremely informative and inspiring article for Washington Post magazine, Mary Battita described the "problem of pavement":
To learn more about how one community water group helped restore their ailing creek, read this excellent article and share it with your friends and family.
The Alabama Clean Water Partnership has agreed to facilitate a Watershed Management Plan for the Hurricane Creek watershed over the course of this coming year. The watershed management planning process used by ACW brings all the stakeholders, including landowners, businesses, industries, scientists, and environmental groups, to the table to discuss and plan how best to manage community-owned water resources. The Friends of Hurricane Creek will have one seat this table which will hopefully include over 100 seats.
In conjunction with this process, we hope to get a better sense of the water quality and stream flow of Hurricane Creek and its five major tributaries over time. The local USGS is currently evaluating the possibility of a proposed gaging station in the commonly-used swimming hole near Highway 216 at Hurricane Creek Park. This gaging station would allow geologists and hydrologists to provide the public with estimations of water quality so they can make informed decisions about swimming and other forms of recreation at given times.
Alina, and Matthew Buchanan, the new Project Manager for Friends of Hurricane Creek, met with geologists and hydrologists on campus yesterday to get a sense of what data is needed to go forward. The model and inspiration for future planning is a "Proposal for Watershed Assessment of the Water-Quality and Aquatic Health Conditions in Hurricane Creek, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama" submitted by the USGS Water Science Center in March 2008. In this proposal, the USGS recommended a three-year study, beginning in FY 2008 and ending in FY 2010, to assess and monitor the HC watershed water quality and flow-- “20 main stem and tributary sites in Hurricane Creek watershed will be selected to serve as water-monitoring sites.”
This proposal was revisited in light of current needs and budget deficits. Several points emerged from yesterday's meeting, including:
Following the campus meeting, USGS staff conducted a recon in the field to evaluate possible locations as well as the current conditions. Matthew took notes and recorded their observations. In the field, Vic and Amy spoke to a local family there about past and present conditions at the creek (water levels, increased sedimentation, presence or absence of mussels), then walked over to another location to more closely examine the Hwy. 216 bridge, itself.
Vic, Rick, and Amy decided that a radar gauge might be best for that particular area of the creek, and it could be attached to the Jersey rail of the bridge (I'm not exactly certain which rail that means). A particular section of the creek water--located at a roughly 45 degree angle from the gauge's location on the bridge--would be used as a control section, when monitoring the water levels of the creek.
A creek print by local artist and longtime Friend, Sue Blackshear.
Local artist Sue Blackshear graciously donated this evocative print to the Friends of Hurricane Creek at our Annual Creek Clean-up this year. It offers a glimpse of Hurricane Creek during the fall, when the creekside colors change to vivid hues of gold, orange, red, and sienna. See more creek art in our online Art Gallery.
One lucky raffle winner at the Earth Day Festival, sponsored by UA NetImpact, went home with a work of art thanks to Sue's donation. We welcome any and all donations from local businesses and artists. Learn more about our local donors and sponsors and consider whether you would like to join their ranks.
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