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City Reporter



Murky Waters

Local group monitors pollution in Wolf River Harbor.

By Bianca Phillips

Industries have been discharging polluted storm-water run-off into the Wolf River Harbor without following certain permit guidelines, while others are dumping with no apparent permits on file, according to a report released Tuesday by the Water Sentinels.

A new program of the Sierra Club's Chickasaw Group, the Water Sentinels are trained volunteers who collect water samples and check for pollutants. Based on recent tests, the group reports that out of 20 facilities that discharge storm-water run-off into the harbor, only three have permits on file and have shown evidence that they have been sampling their storm-water discharge properly.

Water Sentinels project director James Baker said the attendant at the Environmental Assistance Center could not find permits on file for eight of the facilities. Those include Bunge Corporation Grain Elevator, Buzzard Used Auto Parts, Cargill Grain Elevator, Classic American Hardwood, Dunlap St. Used Auto Parts, Levee Auto Parts & Salvage, Yarbrough Cable, and Ponderosa Tennessee (which the report notes may be out of business).

The remaining nine companies appear to have permits but have not reported evidence that they have been sampling according to the requirements of the Tennessee Multi-Sector General Permit for Storm Water Discharge, which requires that a lab test be done once a year and a visual test every quarter.

"You know the old saying, 'April showers bring May flowers.' Well, they can also bring pollution washing off a site into the Wolf River Harbor. Rain is good, but what it can wash off some of these places can be pretty yucky," said Baker.

Polluted storm-water run-off is caused by rain washing chemicals off the pavement of these facilities as well as running through dumpsters and other outdoor sites that hold chemically infected waste.

The Chickasaw Group also collected run-off samples from Levee Auto Parts and Metal Management and found that the pollution exceeded the legal permit limits by an average of 24 times. Among the pollutants found in these samples were aluminum, copper, iron, lead, zinc, organic materials, and suspended solids.

"No Fishing" signs are currently posted in the Wolf River Harbor due to the high levels of pollutants in the water, but the Chickasaw Group worries that the Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC) will install a land bridge and transform parts of the harbor into a recreation lake. This project is included in the RDC's master plan.


Lawyers challenge terrorist laws.

By Janel Davis

Attorney Jeffrey Jones was in court Friday defending a federal court magistrate's ruling allowing bail for his client charged with immigration evasion.

Jones' client, Yousef Maslef Abas Saleh, and Muthanna Ahmed Ali Muthanna are Yemeni citizens accused of conspiring with two female United States citizens to evade immigration laws. Saleh and Muthanna allegedly married the women for the sole purpose of remaining in the U.S. and conspired to present false statements on residency applications.

Saleh and Muthanna were originally being held without bond. Jones challenged the ruling with Judge Diane Vescovo and won a stay of bond. Saleh was released on bond on condition that he maintain employment and remain in West Tennessee. That ruling was challenged by federal prosecutor Fred Godwin, filling in for prosecutor Linda Harris, who asked for the bond to be revoked, citing Saleh's remaining family ties to Yemen and the potential for him to flee.

"Mr. Saleh posted bond and has continued to work in the area," said Jones. "This case should be treated as any other case in the same situation." Before the hearing, Jones also referenced Patriot Act laws passed since September 11th, which allow for foreigners to be held in custody, many times without bond, on suspicion of terrorist activity. "My client has done nothing wrong and has not been involved in any terrorist acts and is not a threat," Jones told the Flyer.

Allegations stem from Saleh's original entrance into this country with a six-month B2, or non-business, visitor pass from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which has been taken over by the Office of Homeland Security. He was granted a six-month extension on the pass but was not allowed to work under conditions of a visitor status. During that time, Saleh married and divorced one U.S. citizen and then married his current 19-year-old wife.

An INS agent testified that Saleh had completed applications for two Social Security numbers and used different arrangements of his name on immigration documents and health forms.

Muthanna, represented by Stephen Monroe Temple, remains in federal custody. Saleh and Muthanna face arraignment on Wednesday.

Riverfront Review

Outside consultants give thumbs-up to master plan.

By Mary Cashiola

The Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC) brought in a national team last month just to make sure they were "on the right track."

A six-member team of developers, consultants, and an architect from the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute were brought in to assess the RDC's master plan as well as how it should be implemented.

"We have our master plan and we have an idea of how we wanted to move forward," said RDC communications director Dorchelle Spence, "but we needed a third party that wasn't married to any one plan to study it."

The study cost the RDC $110,000. The team spent a week in town, interviewing 75 people, including Mayor Willie Herenton, Jack Belz, and representatives from the Memphis Regional Chamber and the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. Prior to the team's arrival here, the RDC sent them a 200-plus page packet, including the RDC's master plan for the riverfront, demographics, and maps.

"When they first saw the plan, their initial thought was, Why are you building more land downtown?" said Spence. "But once they got to Memphis and they saw how it was laid out, they thought it was a great idea."

The proposed land bridge in the plan would be entirely for residential and cultural use. "Part of our plan is developer-dependent," said Spence. "A big question for us is: Can we expect people to come in and develop this land?"

According to Spence, the team's initial findings were positive and the RDC expects a written report in June.

TennCare Bites Down

Children's dental clinic can't accept new patients.

By Janel Davis

Time and luck have finally run out for the Children's Dental Clinic, which was forced to cease seeing new patients April 15th.

The clinic at 4691 Knight Arnold remains open with a limited staff during business hours for follow-up work on current patients. TennCare officials have refused to alter their certification process and accept the clinic, claiming there are already enough dentists in the area.

The clinic staff, which specialized in treating children on TennCare, hopes that the ban on credentialing dentists in Tennessee's urban areas will be lifted with the start of TennCare's new budget year on July 1st. "We're not giving up. We are still open to maintain a presence in the community," said lead dentist Dr. Freida Grimes-Moore.

The clinic has never received TennCare patient reimbursements and was being bankrolled by the clinic's owner, Bill Mueller.

Another children's clinic, also owned by Mueller and his Colorado-based Forba LLC group, came under fire last week following the December death of a 4-year-old patient in Phoenix, Arizona. The boy's death was found to be caused by an overdose of lidocaine. The dentist denied any wrongdoing and has been allowed to continue practicing pending a formal hearing. The four dentists in that office were licensed general dentists but none received additional certification in pediatric dentistry.

All of the five dentists in the Knight Arnold office are licensed general dentists. "None of the dentists there are licensed pediatric dentists, but all of them have additional training working with children," said Dan DeRose of Forba. "Most children are treated by general dentists and not pediatric dentists."

Theme Song

Memphis' budget comes with a slogan.

By Mary Cashiola

What do high school proms, chain restaurants, and Memphis' annual budget have in common? The answer, for the last couple of years at least, is a theme.

As Mayor Willie Herenton presented the city's operating and capital improvement budgets for the 2004 fiscal year to the city council last week, those in the audience were given buttons bearing a rearranged skyline and the somewhat cryptic words "Memphis: The Choice is Clear."

Very nice, but what does the slogan mean?

"In the last number of years, we've attempted to have a theme behind the budget," city finance director Joseph Lee explained. "We tried to tie in the budget with the city's vision, which is to be recognized globally as the city of choice in which to live, learn, work, and recreate."

In his presentation, Herenton focused on Memphis' achievements in the last year, including the two Tyson fights, the downtown school opening, the FedEx Technology Institute, and the zoo's new pandas.

"We think it's important to tie the budget into what we're doing as a city," said Lee. "It makes it more of a document that shows us where we are ... as opposed to being just a big book of numbers." Last year, the budget's theme was "Choose Memphis." The year before that it was "Memphis Measures Up." The budget team chooses the theme each year.

"We're just trying to get the city excited," said Lee. "Yes, it's a down economy, but we're still doing lots of things. We've taken some hits but not to the extent of some other cities. We think we're still moving forward."

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