KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Water quality crews continue to monitor Second Creek for pollutants after millions of gallons of water were expended fighting a fire at the Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling Center.
Neighbors in the Oakwood-Lincoln Park community who live near the plant expressed their frustration to the city Monday night, asking city leaders why the city didn't take action on several of their complaints over the plant before the fire.
Neighborhood association vice president Michelle Ivester said people have complained numerous times about the facility.
"We've been dealing with this for quite some time now, and we don't understand why the city hasn't taken action previously," she said.
City officials said they had received complaints that it investigated about trash on the property and overgrown grass. There were three calls to 311 about the business, including two complaints about the lot and one for abandoned car junk.
The complaints turned over to codes enforcement were for an overgrown lot, debris, trash and bulky waste in April 2016. In October 2016, records show a complaint about large rats reportedly coming into a home and in October 2018, there was a complaint for a truck with flat tires and no tags. Codes inspectors only found a violation for the vehicle, tagged the truck and a trailer on site.
The codes inspector said the only thing that would contribute to rats was a stack of material that was banded together, there was no loose garbage, so there was no violation.
Ivester said the neighborhood plans to talk to lawyers to figure out the next step.
The site continues to remain under fire watch.
In the meantime, city officials said they are going to continue to monitor stormwater runoff. Should the plant decide to rebuild, the city said it would need to happen with current building codes.
Officials have been monitoring water quality in rivers and creeks near the plant since the fire broke out on May 1.
Stormwater Engineers have been focusing on Second Creek for ash and pollutants. While they've found a few problem areas, they were able to find a solution to protect life in the creek.
On the day of the fire, booms were placed to help prevent pollutants from reaching Second Creek.
“There were no dead fish in Second Creek, but there were a few oxygen-low areas in the waters, and we saw very few fish swimming,” said Chris Howley, City Engineering Planning Chief, who oversees the Stormwater Division.
On May 3, officials similarly said the oxygen levels were lower than normal in some parts of Second Creek, but it hadn't gotten to the point where it would kill fish.
TDEC and city engineers did a walk-through of the creek the day after the fire and found no serious concerns with water quality.
“We wanted to find a way to quickly churn the creek waters by pushing in air,” Stormwater Engineer Manager David Hagerman said. “Improving those areas of low oxygen levels would improve aquatic life health.”
Crews designed and placed two pumps and two air compressors, which pushed air bubbles into several oxygen-hungry areas of the creek. Their quick work produced significant results.
Last week, crews inspected six different sites on Second Creek and found hundreds of fish as well as frogs and turtles.