Neighbors frustrated over inaction following Ft. Loudon recycling plant fire

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – For weeks, residents have been monitoring activity at the recycling plant after it caught fire in May.

The Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling plant burst into flames after a forklift back fired on May 1.

Many residents in the area were forced to evacuate as firefighters fought the blaze for a few days.

Nearly two months after the fire, residents told WATE they are still frustrated. They believe the company continued to do business after they were told not to, and they feel that city officials haven’t done anything to stop them.

“The neighborhood has dealt with this facility for a very long time. (Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling has) been in clear violation for a very long time, and the residents have had no answers. Every time it’s brought up, no one’s ever getting any resolution. They’ve been cited multiple times by multiple organizations and it still hasn’t had any teeth from the city and that’s what the neighborhood wants. We want some action,” Wes Breitenbach said.

The Oakwood-Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association reached out to Mark Campen, its city council representative, for a meeting.

Campen said he emailed the mayor’s staff and other city officials on Friday, asking if they could all meet with the residents at the plant’s facility and tour the inside of the property.

It would be the first time residents could see close up what the company has been doing since the fire.

Campen said he never heard back from the mayor’s office, but he wanted to meet up with the residents anyway.

“There’s obviously no answers today, but to be here and put our eyes on it, it’s always a refresher, and that’s the saddest part about it is we’ve been here for years doing this,” Campen said.

As Campen toured the perimeter with the group, the eight residents voiced their concerns regarding the property and lack of action from the city.

Many of the issues revolved around environmental hazards and previous fines the company never paid.

Campen noticed there were a few areas of poison ivy around the barrier of the property, along with random trash that was filled with mosquito larvae.

As a business owner, Breitenbach said that the lack of city action, after the recycling company reportedly already owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, was disheartening.

What’s the point of following city regulations if you can skip out on paying the consequences, Breitenbach asked.

“If I continually got speeding tickets and didn’t pay my speeding tickets, eventually my license will get revoked and eventually something’s going to happen. Eventually I’m going to get caught by a police officer and get arrested,” Breitenbach said.

The residents told Campen they have sent several videos to city officials of trucks entering Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling, and claim those didn’t come from the Helen Ross McNabb site, where the trucks were only supposed to come from.

Residents were told those videos didn’t show enough proof.

Campen added that the city couldn’t pay for an employee to sit at the recycling plant every day and monitor what was going in and out.

“There’s got to be something that says, ‘Okay, they have X amount of days to pay their fines, or they have X amount of days to clean up the facility,'” Campen said.

The residents chimed in saying that’s the current ordinance. They said the only outcome has been fines and believe the company isn’t being penalized for not paying them.

Breitenbach said they are tired of asking questions and either getting the same answer or not getting an answer at all.

“If you have something happen around you, you want the city to be able to take care of that, you want the city to step up and know that they’ve got your back. And in this situation, the city does not have the back of Oakwood-Lincoln Park,” Breitenbach said.

Campen said he would reach out to the mayor again and the law department.

He plans on bringing the residents questions and concerns to the next city council meeting.

WATE 6 On Your Side has reached out to the owners of Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling multiple times, but they have consistently said they are unable to talk at the moment.

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