Letter: Mulch Heroes

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602 S. Gay Street
2nd Floor
Knoxville, TN 37902

Thank you for publishing a balanced summary of the events surrounding the recent fire at Shamrock Organic Products. [“Mulchpocalypse 2012,” Citybeat by Cari Wade Gervin, April 26, 2012] I never have met Randy Greaves, and I never had heard of him or his business before the fire. But, reading the coverage of recent events, I wanted to ask if I could do anything to help him, his family, or his employees. I feel bad for them, and I feel bad for those fish, too. I don’t think any of them deserved what happened.

From what I’ve read, Randy Greaves has provided nearly two decades of service, contributing taxes, providing jobs, reducing landfill deposits, and reducing taxpayers’ expenses—his central location requires fewer miles driven by trucks hauling debris inbound for processing. That last provides the additional benefit of reducing air pollution, as Cari Wade Gervin mentioned in her report.

Grieves and his people (the remaining employees who have a work ethic and give a damn about things like duty) worked their tails off during the fire, building and re-building a berm to keep water in the property and driving machinery around on burning piles of mulch. I imagine (and hope) they were too busy to read that one side effect of their disaster was fish dying from a “combination of shock... and grit.... that is ‘choking them out’” (Knoxville News Sentinel). They seem like the kind of people who would feel really bad about that.

It seems to me that, except for the Shamrock ex-employees who quit when the work got tough, and a few politicians spouting non-sequiturs, everyone involved acted heroically, doing everything he or she could to prevent the fire, to fight the fire, and to mitigate the damage from the fire. The Shamrock people were vigilant; the fire marshal conducted inspections and deemed the place up to par; the Knoxville Fire Department responded quickly; area resources were found and put to the task; and the state is on the case with regard to the fish.

It’s too bad the actions necessary to put out the fire likely have destroyed any chance of learning its cause. The News Sentinel reports that it was not an act of nature, so we have an accident or arson. If the latter, it seems the perpetrator will remain free to do it again. In the meantime, I wish the best for Randy Greaves and his employees. I hope they will recover quickly and continue to serve Knoxville. I have nothing but appreciation and respect for them.

Claire Austin

Knoxville

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