State funds help clean up huge illegal tire dump in Knox County

State funds help clean up huge illegal tire dump in Knox County

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The largest illegal tire dump in the state of Tennessee is on Alex Bales Road in East Knox County. The largest illegal tire dump in the state of Tennessee is on Alex Bales Road in East Knox County.
At the site, a giant scoop can be seen gobbling up three to four dozen old tires at once as it swings around and dumps its load into a gigantic hauler. At the site, a giant scoop can be seen gobbling up three to four dozen old tires at once as it swings around and dumps its load into a gigantic hauler.
"The money came from tire disposal fees that are paid to your tire dealer when you get a new set of tires," said Tom Salter. "That money is granted out from time to time to clean out large tire dumps." "The money came from tire disposal fees that are paid to your tire dealer when you get a new set of tires," said Tom Salter. "That money is granted out from time to time to clean out large tire dumps."
The one-time owner of the land died years ago, as an estimated 30,000 tires have piled up in the ravine. The one-time owner of the land died years ago, as an estimated 30,000 tires have piled up in the ravine.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Throughout our state, old tires have been banned from landfills for over 20 years because of health and fire hazards. Yet, when you drive around, you'll see tires piled up in many areas.

Every time you buy a new tire, a fee is added for disposing the old tire. 

Residents have been paying this fee since 1991. Presently, it's $1.35 per tire. That adds up to a lot of money. 

Have you ever wondered how that money is being used? Some of it cleaning up an eyesore hidden for years.  

The largest illegal tire dump in the state of Tennessee is on Alex Bales Road in East Knox County.

At the site, a giant scoop can be seen gobbling up three to four dozen old tires at once as it swings around and dumps its load into a gigantic hauler.

A huge excavator then loads the tires on to a truck which hauls them away to an out of state processing facility.

For more than a year, Tom Salter, the director of Knox County's Solid Waste Department, has worked on securing a state grant to have this legacy landfill cleaned up.

"There was a tire shop at the top of this hill back in the 1970s and 1980s, and the owner threw his tires down the hillside," said Salter.

The one-time owner of the land died years ago, as an estimated 30,000 tires have piled up in the ravine. 

Carl Trent took 6 On Your Side in August 2012 to the top of a hill behind his home that is next to the discarded tires. Mr. Trent said he had been after the state and county for years to do something about the property.

"Oh, you see thousands and thousands of tires. It is unbelievable," said Trent. "I never dreamed when I bought my property that this here would be next to it. It's an environmental hazard, it's destroying the water and the land under it."

A local excavating company had to cut a road to get it's equipment behind the tire dump.

The state grant to remove the tires is $160,000. Knox County will not have to pay a penny.

"The money came from tire disposal fees that are paid to your tire dealer when you get a new set of tires," said Salter. "That money is granted out from time to time to clean out large tire dumps."

The landfill is on George Webb's property. He moved here six years ago and is not responsible for the dumping the tires. Webb says at one time, he was directed to haul away them away at his own expense. He's pleased Knox County received the money to get the job done.

He says mosquitoes were driving his dogs crazy.

"I spend $300 or $400 every summer spraying to keep them down so they don't infect my dogs," said Webb.

There are other illegal landfills, though not quite as large as this one throughout our area creating both fire and health hazards.

Environmental inspectors are targeting these sites.

"Tires should not be stored on the ground or in open dumps. They should not be buried. They need to go to a tire processing facility," said Salter.

The clean up is far from over. It's expected to take another two weeks to finish.

State law prohibits tires from landfills, so each county is responsible for providing a collection site where you can drop them off.

The process of having a illegal tire landfill cleaned up takes time. Contacting your local government of the problem is the first step.

As Carl Trent and George Webb can testify, the job can be done.

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