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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - No one wants an environmental hazard in their backyard, but that's exactly what an East Knox County man has next to his home.
Thousands upon thousands of tires have been dumped over a hill onto a piece of property.
When you buy a new tire at a retail store, you pay what's called a tire disposal fee. That money goes into a fund that helps clean up tire dumps. There are quite a few around East Tennessee. Some are even called legacy sites, meaning they've been there for a long time.
One of the worst sites in the state is off Interstate 40 in East Knox County. It's hidden from the highway, but not from the people who live nearby.
Carl Trent has to walk up a steep slope to get to his neighbor's back yard. "We're probably 10 to 15 feet from my property line," he said as we looked at the massive tire dump. "It's unbelievable."
Five years ago, Carl and his wife bought their home. They didn't know then about the tires on their neighbor's property and what a nuisance they would become.
"It's an environmental hazard," Carl said. "It's destroying the water and the land under it."
To see the depth of the tire pile, Carl took pictures in the winter without all the surrounding foliage. "I just see thousands and thousands of tires," he said.
A property tax notice from the county shows the former property owners didn't pay taxes for 10 years. They eventually abandoned the land and left the mess.
A couple of years ago, George Webb bought the property. Of course, he knew about the tires, but had no idea there were so many.
"Yes, I hauled off about a thousand of them. That thousand tires, it took me three or four months, the whole winter," Webb said.
From end to end, the dump is about 150 feet, or half a football field, and it stands about 75 feet tall.
"I have contacted everybody I can think of to give me some help, but everyone has given me the runaround," Carl said.
Beginning in 2009, he wrote letters to lots of people, including then Gov. Phil Bredesen.
6 On Your Side met with Knox County Solid Waste Director Tom Salter. He recently visited the site with officials from the state Department of Environment and Conservation. They estimate there could be as many as 30,000 tires at the site, some dating back 30 years.
"The state has a waste tire fund. Part of that money is set aside for legacy or notorious tire dumps throughout the state, and this tire dump is now on their radar," Salter said.
Since the slope is so steep, removing the tires would be dangerous and take time. However, the state is of the opinion that the tires need to go.
"TDEC will make a decision if they want to allocate money for this. They would contract with Knox County. Knox County, in turn, would contract with a private construction company to do a turn key removal and disposal," Salter explained.
The decision to remove the tires may be made over the next few months. Already county environmental workers have sprayed for mosquitoes to help reduce the risk of West Nile Virus.
It's news Carl has been waiting to hear. "Oh, I'd love to see it cleaned up," he said.
The Tennessee Legislature has banned whole tires from being disposed in landfills. And about 10 years ago, the state prohibited counties from throwing shredded tires in landfills.
If you see a problem where you live, report it to your county officials.
If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.