Action News 5 Investigates: What Lies Beneath - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Action News 5 Investigates: What Lies Beneath

By Janice Broach - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

HALLS, TN (WMC-TV) - Several months ago, the Action News Five Investigators got a tip something was buried in Halls, Tennessee.

"I would be concerned if I knew it was back there," neighbor Marion Goodwin said. "And if you saw it, then it is back there.

Neighbors say they had no idea it was there: Thousands and thousands of pieces of Tupperware - mounds and mounds of products - unearthed behind the old Tupperware plant in Halls, Tennessee.

Outside the building where David Acor runs his business, UIS Polymers, you can see a piece of Tupperware sticking out of the foundation.

"We purchased this property in 1999," he said.

Acor said he didn't know the Tupperware was buried there when he bought the property.  He discovered the burial when his company decided to build a parking lot.

"Last year we were expanding the property and we ran into a massive land fill on the backside of the property," he said.

Acor said they found all sorts of colorful plastic, including bowls, lids, buckets and toys.  You name it, he said, and it's there.

"There's probably 60 "

The state of Mississippi says the Tupperware does not emit any hazardous waste. But UIS Polymers says chemicals were poured on the top of these Tupperware burials, and that's where the hazardous waste is coming from."

Tupperware attorney John Heflin said the company has done nothing illegal, and would not submit to an interview on camera.

In a letter, Heflin referred Action News 5 to an investigator at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation in Jackson.

When we went to Jackson, the investigator was not available.  A field agent contacted a spokesperson for the state, who sent a fax outlining the state's investigation.  The outline no evidence of buried hazardous waste at the site, and says the state will continue monitoring the situation.

"It's been going on for a year now," Acor said.

According to Acor, independent tests confirm contaminants are in the soil, but the reports the investigator shared with Action News 5 did not show that evidence.

Action News 5 asked a local chemist to review the reports, and she said the contaminants were not at an excessive level.

Acor says he just wants the Tupperware gone.

"We had the understanding the property had a clean bill of health when we purchased it," he said.  "We're just sitting on the property, and hoping one day it gets cleaned up."

Neighbors we spoke with are hoping for the same.

"I don't like it living right here," neighbor Kenneth Long said. "I don't know if it is an environmental hazard or what."

Because there is an on-going lawsuit concerning all this, state investigators were not willing to do an interview for this story.

Attorneys for Tupperware and its affiliate, Dart Industries Incorporated, are adamant the company has done nothing wrong and that the Solid Waste Act of 1969 allowed them to bury all that plastic.

They assert in court papers they disclosed the burials to the appropriate state agencies.

"Tennessee statutes specifically permitted the burial of such non-toxic materials," they said in a statement, adding, "there has never been any evidence presented to us of 'toxic' materials being illegally dumped by anyone on the property."

It's important to note state rules about what can and can't be buried changed in 1980.

A state spokesperson said there's no way of knowing when the plastic was actually buried.

Additional Links:

  • For more information on types of solid waste that can/cannot be buried in Tennessee, click here.
  • For links to all Tennessee environmental agencies/programs, click here.
  • For information on the Tennessee Solid Waste Education Project, click here.
  • For a list of solid waste treatment and disposal businesses, click here.
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