Chattanooga and two private companies received four air pollution violations this month over dust and mud produced at two landfills on Birchwood Pike in Harrison. And the trio has 10 days to schedule a conference with the Air Pollution Control Bureau to address the complaints.
Harrison residents, who say they have dealt with muddy roads and dusty air for decades, are organizing in hopes the citations produce results.
Bureau Director Bob Colby said notices of violation were sent Friday to the city, which has a sanitation landfill off Birchwood Pike, along with Environmental Materials and SanTek Environmental of Tennessee. The companies are responsible for a separate construction and demolition landfill adjacent to the city's site.
Colby said consequences for the violations would be determined after the conference. Fines could be included, but probably not steep ones.
"My primary concern in any enforcement case is that the problem is eliminated. There can be substantial civil penalties, but those are usually reserved for egregious instances ... where some ambient air quality standard is being violated," Colby said.
In the case of the landfills, Colby said the problems are more a nuisance than a threat to environmental safety -- but they still need to stop.
"I certainly understand the frustration of the residents, because they were there when the landfill was put there," Colby said. "We obviously want to get this resolved as soon as we can."
Harrison residents have long complained about mud, dust and stray garbage coming from the landfills, but after decades many had given up hope that their community could be clean again.
That is changing, according to District 9 resident Lynn Bishop.
"An organized group formed in our community is meeting [today] to follow up on landfill citations and issues," she said. The meeting is private.
According to the Air Pollution Control Bureau reports, mud is being trailed from the landfill by trucks driving over a muddy road leading away from the city's wheel wash station.
Investigator John Schultz wrote in the four reports that city trucks typically were clean immediately after leaving the wheel wash but would pick up mud from the lane on the way out and track it to Birchwood Pike.
Trucks for SanTek, which operates the adjacent private landfill owned by Environmental Materials, were caked with mud on the way to the wheel wash, and many did not completely stop in the cleaning station, Schultz wrote.
Other attempts by SanTek and the city this month to mitigate the mud, including the graveling of a road leading to the wheel wash, have proved ineffective, Schultz wrote.
Lacie Stone, spokeswoman for Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, said Monday the city could not immediately say what additional measures it would take to address the issues pending the meeting with the Air Pollution Control Bureau.
Cherly Dunson, corporate spokewoman for SanTek, said Monday the company is working with the city to correct the problem.
"Since receiving the violation we have put approximately 250 tons of rock on the road [leading to the wheel wash]. That's to help minimize the amount of mud that gets tracked," Dunson said.
She also said the company is repairing an area that is causing drainage onto the road and has instructed drivers to "take full advantage of the wheel wash station."
Other SanTek employees are patrolling the wheel wash to make sure drivers are using it, she said.
"We're not perfect, but we are working to correct the problem," she said.
Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at 423-757-6481 or at email@example.com.
Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...