KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The city of Knoxville is preparing to sue the operators of a burned-out North Knoxville recycling center because they haven't paid penalties assessed for failing to get a permit they need in order to reopen, a city official said Wednesday.

Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling lacks a special pollution abatement permit, according to David Brace, chief operating officer for the city. City officials have conducted numerous inspections and issued numerous notices of violation requesting that the firm get the permit if it wants to go back into business at 2742 Hancock St.

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Evidence shows the business is taking in new recycling material, prompting the need for the permit, he said. City engineers are concerned about tainted storm water runoff from the site, he said.

David Brace, COO of the city
David Brace, COO of the city, says the city is preparing to sue Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling.

Brace, deputy to Mayor Indya Kincannon, said the city will seek in a Knox County Chancery Court lawsuit to get the unpaid fines.

"They don't have the appropriate permits in place to do the work they want to do," Brace said Wednesday.

State records also show Fort Loudon Waste's corporate status in Tennessee was dissolved in November.

WBIR left a message Wednesday afternoon seeking comment from Eddie Bales, a principal at Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling.

A huge fire broke out in May 2019 at the site, which collected recyclables such as a paper and plastics. The blaze burned for days, forcing the evacuation of neighbors in the Oakwood/Lincoln Park area.

Neighbors fear the immediate environment has suffered.

Records show that at the time of the blaze Fort Loudon Waste owed some $370,000 in property and tangible taxes.

The city recovered back taxes after an insurance settlement for the site, according to Brace.

Crews leave Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling

The business also owed the state for past fines assessed for workplace violations, records show.

It currently faces $8,476 in unpaid city property taxes from 2018 and $17,338 for 2019. It also owes $5,133 in unpaid city tangible taxes for 2019, records show.

Fort Loudon Waste at one point had a demolition permit, but that now has lapsed, Brace said. If they want to continue clearing the site of the fire-damaged buildings, they'll need to get a new permit.

The city has verified that the business is taking in new materials, something it's not supposed to do, he said. Neighbors complained about that immediately after the fire, but city officials told 10News at the time that didn't appear to be happening.

"We want to make sure that the water that enters the site and leaves the site is clean," Brace said. "Since they're in violation on that, they shouldn't be operating their business. They can't be bringing in new material."