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About Cypress Creek

Originating east of the Memphis city fairgrounds near the center of the city, Cypress Creek runs north and northwest eight miles before emptying into the Wolf River. Cypress Creek is vital to the city for storm water drainage and flood control; before 1963, it was used to dispose of some sanitary sewage and manufacturing wastewater. As a result, sediment and soils in and along the creek contain low levels of chemical contaminants.

Six sampling programs conducted between 1964 and 2000 measured the chemical residue levels in creek soil sediments. None of these studies resulted in a determination by governmental agencies for a need to implement protective measures.

The most extensive study of Cypress Creek soil and sediments to date began in 2001. Velsicol conducted the study with the direction, oversight and support of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also provided oversight and input and the city of Memphis, Department of Public Works, supported the collection of historical information and sample collection.

Velsicol conducted the study as a requirement of its federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action Program. The program follows strict regulatory requirements for handling/disposing of wastes and clean up of historic spills and releases if they present a potential harm to human health and the environment.

Cypress Creek Study Area
Because human exposure potential varies by use - industrial, recreational or residential - it was helpful to section the 4.5-mile reach of the creek downstream of the Velsicol facility into five sub-areas:

Click to see map

Sub-Area I runs along side the creek from Scott Street to Jackson Avenue and includes industrial and commercial properties.

Sub-Area II consists of soils beneath the creek’s concrete liner, from Scott Street to Evergreen Street. Exposure to these soils is limited to utility or maintenance workers who might excavate beneath the concrete liner.


Sub-Area III - Backyards adjacent to Cypress Creek

Sub-Area III is the overbank area along Cypress Creek from Jackson Avenue to Evergreen Street. This is a residential area and the creek is lined with concrete and fenced.

Sub-Area IV is an open, undeveloped area from Evergreen Street to Chelsea Avenue bordered by a mix of residential, commercial and industrial properties. It includes the upper surge basin, which stores excess water in times of rainstorms and when the Wolf River water levels are high. The area is used for limited recreation, grounds maintenance and channel maintenance. The area poses a drowning hazard during flash flood conditions.


Sub-Area V - During high water conditions

Sub-Area V is also an open, undeveloped area from Chelsea Avenue to the Wolf River bordered by a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial properties. It includes the lower surge basin, for containing excess water during rainstorms and when the Wolf River water levels are high. This area also sees limited recreation, grounds maintenance and channel maintenance activities and also poses a drowning hazard, especially when water levels are high.

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