Updated 10:15 p.m. Friday.
Nashville officials have determined what caused a horn to sound for more than 5 hours at a Cumberland River barge site on Sunday, and city police have secured cellphone numbers for the company to make contact if it happens in the future.
Police shared the latest information to the mayor’s office and a member of Metro Council on Friday.
They say the problem was an electrical issue with a sensor that triggers if someone falls overboard while loading a barge. That horn activated incorrectly, causing the continuous horn sound.
Police say the Holcim cement company is trying to fix its system. In the meantime, managers provided phone numbers to two nearby police precincts in case it sounds again.
For the third time in recent months, the horn of a Cumberland River barge droned on for several hours this weekend. Now it has Nashville officials deciding what to do if it happens again.
The sound could be heard for miles from roughly 4 to 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. And it was easily traced to a dock at 840 Visco Drive, an industrial area along the Cumberland River just across from Shelby Park.
Alicia Witt was one of hundreds in East Nashville who took to social media with a question, a complaint or a musing.
At first, she thought it was a familiar train horn.
“And then it just kind of occurred to me: ‘Wait, that hasn’t stopped in a really long time,’” she says. “And it seemed the later it got and stiller everything was — as the birds died down and all the noises of daytime faded — it just became this very clear droning noise.”
— alicia witt (@aliciawitty) January 4, 2021
Some residents went to the river for documentation. About two dozen called police. Even the Army Corps, the Coast Guard and Nashville’s congressman were notified.
But it’s unclear why the horn finally turned off. And the Coast Guard has thus far downplayed the situation, with its statements suggesting the horn was in use only briefly.
East Nashville Councilmember Brett Withers has fielded many questions and has been seeking help from Metro. He notes it could be an “interesting case” in terms of enforcement.
“How would [police] reach the barge itself, or those responsible, in order to issue a citation?” he asks.
The cement company listed at the barge site isn’t answering calls — which could be crucial to the fix that officials are seeking. Even if it’s unclear who’s responsible for enforcement, a missing link thus far appears to be as simple as having the right phone number handy to disarm the horn.