Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Larry Clark, October 23, 2019

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:03 - Being hired at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

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Partial Transcript: The following is an oral history interview conducted as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Association Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes the circumstances around his hiring at TVA.

Keywords: Appealing; Aspect; Background; Bob Buckingham; Conferences; Coursework; Determining waste load; Discharge; Fascinated; Field; Foundation; Help; Hiring; Important; Interview; Jobs; Journal of Sanitary Engineering; Learn; Milo Churchill; Offers; Papers; Plan; Project; Published; Reareation in streams; Reareation rate; Senior year; Skills; Stream; Study; Tennessee River watershed; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Textbook; University; University contacts; Wastewater treatment course; Water Quality Branch; Water Quality Management; Water quality course; Water supply course

Subjects: American Society of Civil Engineers; Civil engineering; Environmental engineering; Giants; Highway engineering; Interest; Opportunity; Sanitary engineering; Structural engineering; Tennessee; Tennessee River; Tennessee Technological University; Tennessee Valley Authority; Tennessee. Department of Public Health; Water quality; Work

00:05:43 - Water management plan

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Partial Transcript: So, you began work at--uh--TVA and--uh--you said that there--they were beginning to do a big water management plan.

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks of the water management plan that he helped contribute to as a TVA sanitary engineer.

Keywords: Comprehensive; Hired; New; Out of control; Problems; Selected; TVA Board; Tennessee River watershed; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Water Pollution Control Federation; Water Quality Branch; Water management plan

Subjects: Environmental engineering; Federal government; History; People; Planning; Pollution; Sanitary engineering; Staff; Supervisors; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority; United States; Watersheds; Work

00:07:57 - Tennessee Valley water pollution problems in the 1960s

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Partial Transcript: Well in--uh--1967--um--I'm going to ask you if you could--uh--give a thumbnail overview of what were the water pollution problems in the Tennessee Valley?

Segment Synopsis: Clark details some of the major problems and sources of water pollution in the Tennessee Valley during the mid-1960s.

Keywords: Area; Assessment; Assimilate; Bacteria levels; Bow water; Copper basin; Copper mining; Demand; Denuded lands; Discharge; Heavy sewage; High; Knowledgeable; Ore; Plan; Primary treatment; Problem; Sewage collection; Sewage treatment; Small towns; Solution; Sources of pollution; Streams; Sweetwater (Tenn.); Tannery waste; Technique; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tributaries; Unable; Wastewater; Watershed

Subjects: Athens (Tenn.); Bacteria; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Cities; Color; Columbia (Tenn.); Communities; Copper; Environmental engineering; Feldspar; Feldspar.; French Broad River (N.C. and Tenn.); Hiwassee River; Huntsville (Ala.); Industries; Knoxville (Tenn.); Mica; North Carolina; Ocoee River (Ga. and Tenn.); Oxygen; Paducah (Ky.); Paper mills; Pollutants; Pollution; Population; Responsibility; Sanitary engineering; Sediment; Shelbyville (Tenn.); Solids; Tanneries; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority; Tuckasegee River (N.C.); Water quality; Water--Pollution

GPS: Sweetwater (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.6025, -84.466944
GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
GPS: Paducah (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.072222, -88.6275
GPS: Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.045556, -85.267222
GPS: Huntsville (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.73, -86.585
GPS: Athens (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.448171, -84.602069
GPS: Columbia (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.615022, -87.044464
GPS: Shelbyville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.488889, -86.452222
GPS: French Broad River (N.C. and Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.959167, -83.85
GPS: Tuckasegee River (N.C.)
Map Coordinates: 35.434722, -83.584444
GPS: Ocoee River (Ga. and Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.2061, -84.6578
00:14:48 - Addressing water pollution problems

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Partial Transcript: At that time, in '67--um--who was trying to address water pollution problems?

Segment Synopsis: Clark characterizes how much effort state governments and the TVA were putting in to reduce water pollution levels in the Tennessee Valley in the mid-1960s.

Keywords: Acceptable level; Apply; Aware; Collective; Completed; Comprehensive; Constrained; Contribute; Dissolved oxygen; Federal Water Pollution Control Act; Fish; Grants; Guidelines; Help; Influence; Issues; Levels; Magnitude; Needs; New; None; Not funded; Oostanaula Creek (Tenn.); Paper mill; Plan; Politics; Problems; Process; Proposal; Published; Regulation; Reluctant; State programs; Support; Target; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Together; Wastewater treatment plants; Water quality criteria; Watershed; Weak

Subjects: Alabama; Athens (Tenn.); Bacteria; California; Cities; Color; Environmental engineering; Federal government; Georgia; Health; Industries; Kentucky; Money; North Carolina; Opportunity; Oxygen; Power; Programs; Research; Sanitary engineering; State governments; States; System; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Tuckasegee River (N.C.); Water; Water quality; Water use; Water--Pollution; Work

GPS: Oostanaula Creek (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.4587126, -84.602667
GPS: Athens (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.448171, -84.602069
GPS: Tuckasegee River (N.C.)
Map Coordinates: 35.434722, -83.584444
00:22:39 - Career overview

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Partial Transcript: So--uh--you began TVA--uh--that way.

Segment Synopsis: Clark provides an overview of his career path at TVA.

Keywords: Assimilate; Assistance; Background; Completed; Decision; Federal Water Pollution Control Act; Higher level; Higher levels of oxygen demand; Industrialized; Liaison; Nitrogenous oxygen; Nutrient removal; Oxygen demand; Plans; Primary treatment; Project; Removal; Removing oxygen demand; Removing solids; Secondary treatment; State government; State of Tennessee Government; Strong; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tertiary treatment; Treatment levels; Unproven; Wasteload; Wastewater; Water Quality Planning; Water management plan

Subjects: Chattanooga (Tenn.); Environmental engineering; Experience; Letter; Money; Municipalities; Oxygen; Planning; Sanitary engineering; States; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; Water quality; Work

GPS: Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.045556, -85.267222
00:26:46 - Study of water quality impacts at Chattanooga

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Partial Transcript: And so, in 1974, I was given the opportunity to conduct a study on the Tennessee River at Chattanooga.

Segment Synopsis: Clark describes a study on water quality in the Tennessee River that he participated in.

Keywords: Action; Adjust; Chickamauga Dam (Tenn.); Commitment; Conferences; Contribution; Daily flow; Decision; Determine; Dye; Effect; Federal Water Pollution Control Act; First; Flow; Flow level; Greater; Harmful; Higher; Hydropower; Improving; Increased capacity; Maintain; Moccasin Bend Sewage Treatment Plant; Normandy Dam (Tenn.); Objective; Off; Operation; Places; Published; Regional Water Quality Management; Releases; Results; Savings; Sewage treatment plant; Significant; Standard engineering calculations; Study; TVA Board; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Unsure; Velocity; Wastewater treatment; Water quality changes; Wind

Subjects: Change; Columbia (Tenn.); Cost; Dams; Design; Engineers; Environmental engineering; Flood control; Meeting; Miami (Fla.); Navigation; Normandy Reservoir Region (Tenn.); Opportunity; Paper; Sanitary engineering; Shelbyville (Tenn.); States; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water; Water quality; Water--Pollution

GPS: Chickamauga Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.103889, -85.229444
GPS: Normandy Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.465476, -86.24259
GPS: Moccasin Bend Sewage Treatment Plant
Map Coordinates: 35.0530364, -85.3354631
GPS: Miami (Fla.)
Map Coordinates: 25.775163, -80.208615
GPS: Shelbyville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.488889, -86.452222
GPS: Columbia (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.615022, -87.044464
GPS: Normandy Reservoir Region (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.465476, -86.24259
00:31:56 - Program Manager of Regional Water Quality Management

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Partial Transcript: Let's go on with your--uh--career.

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses his work at TVA as the Program Manager of Regional Water Quality Management.

Keywords: Background; Co-worker; Congressional appropriations; Dick Freeman; Director of Environmental Quality; Document; EPA; EPA Region Four; Effort; Environmental Protection Agency (U.S.); Expertise; Familiar; Financed; Focus; Growing; Heavy sedimentation; Impetus; Is the Water Getting Cleaner (publication); Mohamed El-Ashry; New; Objective; Overall view; Plan; Pollution problems; Problems; Products; Program Manager; Regional Water Quality Management program; Relationship; Report; Result; S. David Freeman; Same; Selected; Solutions; TVA Board; Talking; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tenure; Together; Top-notch; Update; Water quality management plan; Where the Water isn't Clean Anymore (publication); Whistleblower

Subjects: Ability; Environmental engineering; Environmental engineers; Interest; Meeting; Partners; People; Planning; Pollution; Programs; Responsibility; Sanitary engineering; Sediment; Staff; States; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water quality; Water--Pollution

00:39:21 - Nolichucky River sedimentation issues

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Partial Transcript: Also, some of the problems that were identified--like there was heavy sedimentation in the Nolichucky River.

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks of his work on the Nolichucky Dam in order to attempt to fix the issues with sediments surrounding the dam.

Keywords: Abandoned mine lands; Abrasive; Application; Basin; Bottom; Bulldozer; Citizens; Closed; Cut off; Denuded; Digging; Discharge; Done; Effects; Effort; Electrical insulators; Expertise; Feldspar industry; Fertilizer; Future pollution; Gone; Heavy; High; Hydropower; Jack Muncey; Lands; Manipulated; Material; Mining; No treatment; Nolichucky Dam; Nolichucky River (N.C. and Tenn.); Ore; Processing; Program Manager; Pumps; Reclaiming mines; Regional Water Quality Management program; River; Roger Bollinger; Soil; Solution; Source; Talents; Techniques; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tributary; Wastewater; Water treatment plants

Subjects: Blades; Coal mines and mining; Environmental engineering; Erosion; Feldspar; Industries; Interest; Mica; North Carolina; Partnership; People; Pollutants; Pollution; Property; Revegetation; Rivers; Sanitary engineering; Sediment; Seeds; Selling; Solids; Staff; Successful; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; Turbines; United States. Department of Agriculture; Water quality; Water--Pollution

GPS: Nolichucky River (N.C. and Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.081944, -83.229167
GPS: Nolichucky Dam
Map Coordinates: 36.06478, -82.86653
00:44:26 - Addressing water quality problems in the 1980s

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Partial Transcript: But we began to work on the copper basin.

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses his work as Program Manager of the Regional Water Quality Management Program in the 1980s, including various projects that he and the staff worked on.

Keywords: Aggressive; Broken; Control; Copper basin; Cutback; Decision; Declining; Dependent; Discharge; Drought; Drought Management Task Force; EPA; End; Environmental Protection Agency (U.S.); Federal authority; Headlines; Inter-state pollution; Issues; Jobs; Low; National Weather Service (U.S.); Paper mill; Problems; Program Manager; Rainfall; Raining; Reclaiming lands; Regional Water Quality Management program; Report; Shut-off; Spring Branch (Tenn.); State line; Team; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Together; Tributaries; Wastewater treatment; Water flow; Water release; Working relationship

Subjects: Analysis; Black; Canton (N.C.); Cities; Color; DDT (Insecticide); Data; Economics; Environmental engineering; Federal government; History; Huntsville (Ala.); Industries; Lakes; Management; Monitoring; Partnership; Pigeon River (N.C. and Tenn.); Pollutants; Pollution; Problem solving; Recreation; Sanitary engineering; Staff; State governments; States; Successful; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water; Water quality; Water use; Water--Pollution; Water-supply

GPS: Spring Branch (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.1408056, -84.9768544
GPS: Pigeon River (N.C. and Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.024444, -83.196389
GPS: Canton (N.C.)
Map Coordinates: 35.534722, -82.8375
GPS: Huntsville (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.73, -86.585
00:50:17 - Solutions for trash in water

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Partial Transcript: We're here in 2019 and--uh--the subject of climate change...

Segment Synopsis: Clark recalls the solutions proposed by the TVA to fix problems with trash in the Tennessee Valley waterways during the 1980s.

Keywords: Accumulate; Anniversary; Camp Jordan (Tenn.); Disaster; Downstream; Downtown; Drought; Effort; Floating; Impact; Involved; Lake; Local; Locals; Lowered; Minimize; Neighborhood; News; Nickajack Dam (Tenn.); Ongoing; Places; Practice; Procedure; Program Manager; Raining; Realization; Regional Water Quality Management program; River; Roadside; Significance; Spring Creek (Tenn.); TVA Dams; Tennessee River Rescue; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Trash; Trash removal; Tree trunks; Washed in; Zone Captain

Subjects: Chattanooga (Tenn.); Dams; Ditches; East Ridge (Tenn.); Environmental engineering; Environmentalists; Hamilton County (Tenn.); History; Lakes; Madison County (Tenn.); Marion County (Tenn.); Photographs; Pollutants; Pollution; Public relations; Responsibility; Sanitary engineering; Shorelines; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority; Volunteers; Water; Water quality; Water use; Water--Pollution

GPS: Spring Creek (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.7667505, -88.6860327
GPS: Camp Jordan (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.0042584, -85.1964863
GPS: Nickajack Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.004167, -85.619444
GPS: Madison County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.61, -88.84
GPS: Hamilton County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.18, -85.17
GPS: East Ridge (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 34.996667, -85.2375
GPS: Marion County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.13, -85.61
00:55:13 - Finding sources of water pollution

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Partial Transcript: In 19--1991, '92 time-frame, the Regional Water Management program...

Segment Synopsis: Clark explains how his staff determined sources of water pollution in the Tennessee Valley.

Keywords: Access; Animal waste areas; Bacteria levels; Bear Creek Floatway (Ala.); Clear; Congress; Congressional appropriations; Congressman; Control; Cost; Creek; Divert; Excess; Finishing; Funds; Gone; High; Hog operations; Jimmy Quillen; Journals; Middle Fork Holston (Va.); Middle fork; Non-point source discharge; Normandy Dam (Tenn.); Pioneered; Point-source discharges; Pollution problems; Pollution sources; Program; Program Manager; Published; Regional Water Quality Management program; River; Share money; Shift; Solution; Source; South fork; Technique; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tom Bevill; Unusable water; Valley-wide monitoring program; Water quality issues

Subjects: Aerial photography; Alabama; Analysis; Animals; Bacteria; Boone Lake (Tenn.); Brown; Budget; Cattle; Cities; Color; Columbia Dam (Tenn.); Duck River (Tenn.); Environmental engineering; Farmers; Farms; Growth; Holston River, South Fork (Va. and Tenn.); Lakes; Livestock; Money; Mud; Pigs; Pollutants; Pollution; Rivers; Sanitary engineering; State governments; Tennessee Valley Authority; United States. Department of Agriculture; Virginia; Water; Water quality; Water--Pollution; Work

GPS: Bear Creek Floatway (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.363762, -87.928838
GPS: Normandy Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.465476, -86.24259
GPS: Holston River (Va. and Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.959167, -83.85
GPS: Boone Lake (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.440278, -82.438333
GPS: Duck River (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.941944, -87.933889
01:02:53 - End of Water Quality Management Program

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Partial Transcript: And in '91, and '92, the regional program was...

Segment Synopsis: Clark relays what happened to the Regional Water Quality Management Program in the early 1990s. Clark also explains the new smaller, less centralized structure of the re-branded program today.

Keywords: Activities; Capable; Continue; Craven Crowell; Developing; Difficult; Director; End; Focus; Little River Water Association; Little River Watershed Association; Not necessary; Power program; Program; Program Manager; Regional Water Quality Management program; Role; Seed money; Smaller; Solutions; State water quality programs; Stopped; Teams; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Thinking; Together; Tributary systems; Water quality efforts; Watershed basis; Watershed teams

Subjects: Ability; Blount County (Tenn.); Budget; Duck River (Tenn.); Environmental engineering; Experience; Federal government; Growth; Hiwassee River; Holston River, South Fork (Va. and Tenn.); Money; Monitoring; Popular; Problem solving; Sanitary engineering; States; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; Water quality; Water--Pollution; Watersheds; Work

GPS: Holston River (Va. and Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.959167, -83.85
GPS: Hiwassee River
Map Coordinates: 35.41, -85.01
GPS: Duck River (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.941944, -87.933889
GPS: Blount County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.69, -83.93
01:07:39 - Essence of TVA

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, I think that--uh--and what is coming out to me in doing these interviews--uh--is that TVA served as an important catalyst, not just at one point in time, but maybe over an extended period of time in so many areas.

Segment Synopsis: Clark details what makes TVA unique, in that it allows flexibility and freedom for employees to pursue many interests.

Keywords: Beginning; Benefit; Choice; Chris Ungate; Concept; Cost savings; Decision; Dissolved oxygen; EPA; Environmental Protection Agency (U.S.); Flexible; Flow; Impact; Issue; Low; Modified; No enforcement; Operations; Pollution control laws; Pollution problems; Problems; Regional Water Quality Management program; Reports; Reservoir Release Improvement program; River system operation; Same; Steward; Stream; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Water resources; Whistleblower

Subjects: Catalyst; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Dams; Meeting; Oxygen; Pollution; Reservoirs; Self; System; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water; Work

GPS: Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.045556, -85.267222
01:12:14 - Memories of TVA

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Partial Transcript: --Uh--what do you think your--your f--favorite memory is or was during your career?

Segment Synopsis: Clark shares his favorite memories from working at TVA.

Keywords: Bevan Brown; Bob Buckingham; Bob Shelton; Director; Fond; Good times; Group; Helpful; Jack Muncey; Job; Knowledgeable; Milo Churchill; Possible; River System Operator; Roger Bollinger; Technical expertise; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Understood; Willing

Subjects: Career; Environmental engineering; Foresters; Giants; Good; Memories; People; Professionals; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work

01:15:06 - Flood risk reduction at Spring City, Tennessee

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Partial Transcript: Are there any questions that I have not asked that--uh--you wished I had asked?

Segment Synopsis: Clark details a TVA flood control project he participated in which involved relocating residents away from a floodplain in the small town of Spring City, Tennessee.

Keywords: Area; Attorney; Bought homes; Completed; Condition; Damaged; Danger; Dangerous; Different; Downtown; Evacuation; Flood Damage Reduction project; Flood water diversion; Flooding; Floodplain; Floodwaters; Floodway; Friends; Full-market value; Funding; Help; House; Houses; Living; Loss of life; Material; Mountain; No time; No warning; Park; Piney River (Tenn.); Program; Project Manager; Projects; Rainfall; Realization; Removal; Rewarding; Situation; Spring City (Tenn.); Swept away; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Water depth; Water quality improvements; Zone

Subjects: Boulders; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Communities; Families; Flood control; Floods; Homeowners; Interest; Meeting; Opportunity; People; Successful; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Value; Velocity; Water; Water quality

GPS: Spring City (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.689444, -84.863889
GPS: Piney River (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.65396, -84.783
GPS: Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.045556, -85.267222
01:20:49 - Water supply issues

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Partial Transcript: So, I began to work on water supply issues from about '98 to 2001.

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses the last phase of his TVA career, which was in water supply issues.

Keywords: Activities; Allocate; Aquatic flows; Challenging; Different; Effect; Enjoyed; Fish; Flexible; Focus; Help; Inflows; Issues; Lake level; Minimum flows; Modeling; Normandy Lake (Tenn.); Place; Rates; River Management group; Storage capacity; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Use; Varied; Withdrew

Subjects: Alabama; Analysis; Bear Creek Reservoir (Ala.); Bear Creek Watershed (Ala. and Miss.); Career; Change; Haleyville (Ala.); Manchester (Tenn.); People; Recreation; Reservoirs; Russellville (Ala.); Tennessee Valley Authority; Water; Water quality; Water-supply; Work

GPS: Normandy Lake (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.4581221, -86.2216211
GPS: Bear Creek Reservoir (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.398611, -87.987778
GPS: Russellville (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.505556, -87.729167
GPS: Haleyville (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.230131, -87.618978
GPS: Manchester (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.473333, -86.085556