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Bridge, Phillips, Elam Drainage District News From the desk of Milton Sandy Jr

May 15, 2011

Vol 2011-4

This newsletter is directed to friends and supporters of our efforts to get something done about the repetitive flooding in Corinth and Alcorn County which on May 2, 2010, caused loss of life, public and private property and threatened public health and safety by the massive release of raw sewage into flood waters. If you have news, questions or comments, please fire away.

Asleep at the wheel This is a story I ran across several weeks ago and have been trying to research the details but have decided to put this out and see what details others may recall. As I have related earlier, Elam, Bridge and Phillips Canals were created in the 1910-1925 time period and appeared to work well as flood control channels for drainage until the early 1970's. My experience along with my father having been at the same location on Elam Canal since 1938 is that flooding only began to get significantly worse since the early 1970's. Why this has happened, besides the obvious lack of maintenance, has been somewhat puzzling to me. The most obvious explanation would seem to be the increased urbanization, including paved streets, parking lots and increased housing. But as you may remember from the population chart presented some time ago, through the 1970's our population growth didn't exactly set any woods on fire.

Contact: Milton Sandy Jr 662-286-6087 - Fax 287-4187 - E-mail mlsandy@tsixroads.com


Recently, the City of Corinth had a problem with the Class II rubbish site it operates off Smithbridge Road between the Norfolk Southern Railroad track and Turner Creek behind the Civil War Interpretive Center. Until the last year or so, the City had an outside contractor who regularly came in and ground up tree limbs and then hauled it off where it was sold for industrial fuel or other uses. Because of the slow down in the economy, the contractor had not been able to sell the mulched product and hadn't been back for some time allowing quite a large amount to accumulate. Apparently an inspector with MDEQ informed the city that it had to be either mulched or covered with dirt. The city very promptly took care of the problem by finding another contractor to mulch and hopefully eventually sell the accumulated mountain of mulch. This is what the small hill site looked like from Google Earth:

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The site is approximately 343' East/West by 725' North/South which equals approximately 5 acres. The site was filled with wood waste at that time as pictured below:

Approximately 1 acre was filed with leaves in various state of composting. From my own experience this is commonly referred to as “gardener's gold� and if it could be sifted to remove all the extraneous debris included such as trash and plastic bag pieces, would be in high demand by area gardeners. This is what this looked like at the time:

At the time, I was trying to help find another mulching contractor among the mulching contacts I have developed. To do this, I assembled the information about the site above. As with most things, I consulted my historical research department (Stephanie Sandy) who informed me that this site was formerly the area occupied by the Corinth Brick Company. It seems that Corinth

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for almost a 100 years- since the late 1800's anyway- had a thriving brick industry. Most of the early downtown buildings were constructed with a deep red brick manufactured locally. The brick plant and kilns were located closer to the railroad tracks, this refuse site was the location of clay pits where clay was dug for manufacturing bricks. It seems this wasn't the only site in the immediate vicinity for clay pits. The original clay pits according to Mr. Beverly Hussey were located in the now vacant lot across from Long Wholesale on Fulton Drive. According to Beverly, he was told that the brick yard utilized driver less carts pulled by trained mules to haul the clay over the hill where Long is located to the brick yard on the other side. This is perhaps the earliest remote controlled factory robot by mule power. Later my research led me to Mr. Billy Ray Briggs, now retired, a former street commissioner and alderman. Billy Ray has lived in West Corinth all of his life and recalls that the area behind the present city barn at the end of Fulton Drive was also former clay pits. There were 2 large ponds he recalled in the head waters of Turner and Elam Creeks where everyone in West Corinth learned to swim. Later, the brick company also dug clay pits west on Hwy 72 and south on Hwy 45, some of which remain today. So there we have 3 areas of extensive clay pits between Elam and Turner Creeks within the city of Corinth. What happened to these clay pits? According to Billy Ray in consultation with his father, he remembers the area behind the city barn was sold to the City of Corinth at auction by Liddon McPeters in the mid 1940's and began to be filled in as a garbage dump for the city. Prior to that time, he believes the city hauled garbage into the county to a site owned by Tolbert Smith past Five Points on a road to the right. Billy Ray remembers small carts holding 2 or 3 cubic yards were used while clay was still being dug and were hauled by mules to the brick yard. After the pits were filled in with garbage, the garbage was set afire every night to reduce its volume. He remembers while he was growing up that the smoke and smell of burning garbage was always in the air in West Corinth. Sometime in the 1950's the burning was stopped and dirt was hauled in to cover the garbage each night. In the mid to late 1960's, the former clay pits behind the city barn were full and the city acquired the clay pits off Smithbridge Road and began to fill them with garbage and once again covered with dirt. When the pits were filled, I understand that the city began using the county landfill behind the present day animal shelter on Farmington Road and began paying the county a tipping fee for dumping there. This continued until the mid-1990's when the present county transfer station off Harper Drive was built. The Smithbridge Road site continued in use for Class II rubbish (vegetation only). The original clay pits across from Long Wholesale, beside Elam Canal, and behind the old Corinth Machinery Building, were used by Refuse Systems, Inc. (RSI) as a private landfill until the early 1970's when the company was merged with Waste Management. I was told that the landfill contained non-hazardous industrial waste, primarily material from Kimberly Clark which today is reclaimed in their manufacturing processes.

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I apologize for this being a long story- but what, you say, is the point? In the 1960's the Soil Conservation Service proposed 2 watershed retention lakes- each in the headwaters of Phillips and Bridge Canals. Neither were ever built but their intent was to retain water in case of really large rainfall events and slow down its release to prevent flooding in Corinth. This is still the preferred “environmentally correct” way to approach flood control. To that extent, we have been looking at areas that could be adapted to that function today. What I have found in regard to Elam Canal is what I believe answers part of my question about the 1970's. Here we had 3 very large areas of clay pits which from the late 1800's until the early 1970's were holes in the ground which retained water. All were located in the middle of the fork in watershed of Elam Canal and Turner Creek. During massive rainfall events, they

retained water. After being filled in by garbage, covered with dirt, they not only did not retain water, they increased and added to the flow of water down Elam Canal. Our earliest reference to a brick company in Corinth is from the Corinth Herald, Vol. V #7, Wed. Aug. 1, 1883: ”...The ground near it has been used for a brick yard, and the excavation has been carried up to within a few feet of the grave [of Col. Wm. P. Rogers].” A 1930 supplement to the Daily Corinthian gives a short history of the Corinth Brick Company which was owned at that time by Dan. O. Turner, Mr. B.F. Worsham, Mr. Chad L. Archie, and operated by Mr. Harley Moses as Superintendent. The production of the plant was listed as about 2,000,000 bricks per month. The plant closed sometime in the 1960's. During this time period for at least 50 years, clay was being dug inside the city increasing the water retention capability along Elam Canal. After the city of Corinth and others started filling these water retention areas in with garbage and debris, the water previously retained moved rapidly downstream where the canals had become clogged with debris and growth and that is when our flooding problems started to become much worse. In summary, I have to point out that today, the most environmentally friendly way to control flooding is to find areas and dig holes and create retention areas to retain water. This would be called a BMP in the lingo of storm water management experts. What I will point out is that for 50 years by a natural process of digging clay, manufacturing bricks and shipping it out all over the United States, we had a local industry that created natural storm water retention areas in areas very close to where they were needed to prevent flooding downstream. Most of these storm water retention areas were either filled in by our city fathers or allowed to be filled in by developers. I do not think anyone intentionally promoted increased flooding, I just don't think our city fathers were really thinking. I think everyone just naturally jumps to the conclusion a filled in area is worth more than a hole in the ground. It takes a great deal of foresight to see the whole picture. This goes back a long way and includes several administrations of city fathers. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Do you think anyone was asleep at the wheel?

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