HCSO investigating illegal sewage dump at Phipps Bend

Jeff Bobo • Dec 5, 2017 at 6:45 PM

SURGOINSVILLE — The Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office is hoping surveillance video footage will help identify the person or persons responsible for an illegal sewage dump that occurred sometime last month in a remote section of the Phipps Bend Industrial Park property.

The dump site was discovered Friday by maintenance personnel who were mowing a back corner of the industrial park near the law enforcement gun range.

HCSO Deputy Anthony Crosby responded to the complaint and reportedly observed tire tracks leading into a weeded area where a large amount of raw sewage had been dumped.

The contaminated area is estimated to be at least 50 feet by 50 feet.

HCSO Chief Deputy Tony Allen told the Times-News on Monday he is hoping video surveillance at Phipps Bend will help identify the culprits. No images were available as of late Monday.

Anyone who has information about the dump is asked to call the HCSO at (423) 272-4848. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has also been notified.

In the meantime, Emergency Management Agency Director Gary Murrell was arranging to have the site investigated by a waste disposal expert to determine how to conduct the cleanup.

It might just be a matter of scooping out the waste and treating the area with lime. But if the contamination was absorbed deep into the soil, the topsoil might have to be removed as well, which will be more expensive.

“If this was a septic tanker truck, you’re talking about 1,800 to 2,000 gallons,” Murrell said. “That’s more than just illegal dumping. That’s raw sewage, which is a serious health hazard. If somebody gets caught, it’s going to be bad for them. Aside from criminal charges, you’re probably looking at (civil penalties from) the TDEC and the state health department.”

Murrell said this is at least the third raw sewage dump in the past year in Hawkins County.

Most recently there was a dump in the Grassy Creek area of Beech Creek that turned the creek green with a combination of raw sewage and portable toilet chemicals.

Fortunately, the Phipps Bend sewage dump wasn’t near the Holston River. Murrell noted that it’s not in an area usually visited by plant employees or the public.

He noted, “If you go to the Phipps Bend maintenance shop and turn like you’re going to the shooting range, it’s right there on the corner. It’s an area in the park where you can go in and circle, and nobody is going to see you sitting there. You just go in and circle, back up a little bit and dump it out, and just leave and no one will see you except the surveillance cameras.”