City of Knoxville prepares to sue recycling company that caught fire

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The City of Knoxville is prepared to file a lawsuit against Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling in order to recover unpaid penalties.

David Brace, Chief Operating Officer for the City of Knoxville, said that the engineering department issued several Notices of Violations (NOVs) to the owners of the company since the property went up in flames, but hasn’t received payment.

After the fire, 6 On Your Side learned that Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling owed the city more than $200,000 in taxes.

Brace said that the money owed doesn’t have anything to do with the taxes.

In fact, he said that immediately after the company received its insurance money, the city received the taxes owed.

Brace said that the reason for most of the NOVs was because the business hadn’t obtained its Special Pollution Abatement Permit (SPAP), but continued to operate with new materials.

“That’s really what the stormwater department does, they make sure that water that enters the site or leaves the site is clean. And since they are in violation of that, they shouldn’t be operating their business. They can’t be bringing in new materials,” Brace said.

He said that city employees visit the site off Hancock Street at least once a week.

He said that during some of those visits, city staff witnessed new material on the property.

“I think they were bringing in new materials, and we did multiple inspections and at times have caught them operating and bringing in new materials. That’s why we issued the NOV,” Brace said.

He said the company has yet to finish the demolition process of the damaged materials after the fire, but Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling no longer have a valid demolition permit.

If the company was to resume demolition, the owners would need to reapply and obtain a new demolition permit.

Brace also mentioned that the corporate entity ‘Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling Inc.’ had been dissolved by the order of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

According to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, the “company was placed in ‘inactive-revoked’ status at the request of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) on Nov. 26, 2019.”

The office added that they don’t know why LWD asked for the company to be dissolved; it was part of a group of 40 other companies that were also asked to be dissolved.

The office stated that once a business is administratively dissolved, “a corporation is not supposed to take any actions beyond the winding down of its business. However, a business may reinstate by obtaining clearance from labor and workforce development and the department of revenue and filing the appropriate reinstatement form with our office. Once reinstated, it is treated as if the business had never been administratively dissolved.”

The office also said that it’s not uncommon for a business to accidentally forget to file an annual report and be administratively dissolved for some period of time before discovering their error.

Eddie Bales, co-owner of Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling, said that he was not aware of the state dissolving the company.

He also said that he has not received notices of violations from the city.

Bales said that city employees have been checking in on their property almost every day since the fire.

He said his company was not conducting new business; they have been working to clean up after the fire.

Bales said they have cleaned about 75% of the 16-acre property and expect to finish within the next 30 to 45 days.

He said he didn’t need a demolition permit because the fire demolished everything.

He also said that his company has filed for numerous permits, but the city rejects them and he doesn’t know why.

“We are cooperating with all city departments. Whatever they ask from us, we are doing,” Bales said.

Several residents continue to ask why the city has yet to shut the company down.

They say they consistently see several trucks entering and leaving the business with new material.

At least one couple moved away from the area because they were afraid of contamination.

“The concept of shutting down, we live in a country that has due process. And so, sending the notices of violations and requesting corrective action, that is an important step of due process,” Brace said.

Brace said the city will be filing a lawsuit against Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling in Chancery Court to recover unpaid fines.

“We’ve assessed penalties, they haven’t paid them. The penalties are to get them in compliance, and since they’ve not paid them, we’re going to go file suit in Chancery Court,” Brace said.

Brace was also asking the residents of the Oakwood-Lincoln Park community that if they see any operations going on, to report it to 311.

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