Underground: Fire still smolders in W. Knox County

By: Jason Tighe
By: Jason Tighe

KNOX COUNTY (WVLT) - It has been three weeks, and a West Knox County neighborhood still faces a cloud of uncertainty.

In that time, Tedford Lane has turned into a smoky, smelly and apparently illegal landfill that caught on fire and is still burning.

On Saturday, the neighborhoods homeowners group got together and decided to take a closer look at the scene, hoping to discover some answers as to when everything will get back to normal.

"He said they believe it's just a wood fire," said one resident after talking with a HAZMAT worker.

"There's nobody that can say with certainty that they know what is being burned in that landfill," said Jamey Dobbs, another concerned neighbor.

Clearly, something has been burning in the unwanted dump site, but what it is remains the subject of some feisty debate and getting to the bottom of things is getting pricey.

"This operation is a thousand dollars an hour with two track hoes and a dozer," said Tom Salter, Knox County's director of solid waste. "The neighbors came up today to see the size of the project. And one remark that these are gigantic excavating machines and they actually look small in this hole in the ground."

"This is what happens when you don't have the money to enforce the ordinances you have about these dump sites in your county," said county commission candidate Lee Tramel.

Concerned neighbors said since the fire kindled, they have been paying a dangerous price.

"My house is full of smoke and this odor every night," said Carlene Steenekamp, another concerned resident. "It's overwhelming and it's unbearable."

"The immediate problem is that the air could be endangering the families around here," said Dobbs.

Knox County said the situation on Tedford Lane remains under constant monitoring, especially the air quality.

Clean-up workers still see occasional spikes in levels of carbon monoxide, but they maintain everything they have pulled out of the hole has been wood.

On top of the county workers, the residents of Tedford Lane have contacted the Environmental Protection Agency in hopes of having more tests run as soon as possible.

In the meantime, Carlene Steenekamp believes the physical ailments her family of five have begun to suffer from are because of the the potentially hazardous debris burning just feet from her home.

"We've all experienced symptoms of being physically ill due to carbon monoxide poisoning," she said.

It's still not clear where the landfill debris will be taken once they stop burning, but one possibility would move then only feet away.


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