Sun
Apr 15 2012
02:37 pm
By: metulj  shortURL

Seems the City of Knoxville mulch pile is a flambe. If you have respiratory illness or allergies, stay inside. I think they have it under control, but damn what a smoking mess.

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redmondkr's picture

On the days I go to my

On the days I go to my cardiac therapy I pass by that storage facility. The odor is pretty intense even without the smoke.

Ailor Avenue Fire

Here's the scene as we passed Middlebrook and Twenty-First near Thompson's Photo about 12:30 this afternoon. Middlebrook westbound was closed at Twenty-First.

reform4's picture

Rumor has it...

... I've heard they don't 'turn' the piles as often as they are supposed to, which leads to extreme temperatures inside the pile (and eventually, self-ignition). I've also heard that they've been cited before for not turning the piles.

It will be interesting to see what the investigation turns up. The KFD has lots of issues with people not doing what they are supposed to do, not just here, and eventually we're going to have a firefighter killed. Until then, it's laissez-faire.

smalc's picture

I don't see how on earth they

I don't see how on earth they would turn it if they wanted, they have let it get too large. The big pile has got to be 60 or 70 feet high, at least. The very top of that pile was on fire when I went by on the interstate about noon.

Delisa's picture

Shamrock

Where did you hear this? And yes, it will be interesting to see what the investigation shows up. Perhaps you should get all the information before "guessing" what is or has been happening at Shamrock for the last 18 years....I read they passed inspections, two of them last month...nothing about being cited...so where are you getting your information? I would like to read it as well...

Factchecker's picture

We just went through that

We just went through that area and it's still a large smoky inferno, w/ Middlebrook and, I believe, Sutherland cut off. That doesn't look like an easy type of fire to put out. If you had enough water, the smoke, it seems, would even be a lot worse than it is. And it's bad now.

Factchecker's picture

Lots o' pics at KNS.

Lots o' pics at KNS.

Virgil Proudfoot's picture

Firefighters?

I don't understand. Why are firefighters, public employees of the socialist über-state, being called in to fight this thing?

Shouldn't we leave the solution up to the free market?

bizgrrl's picture

If it affected Middlebrook

If it affected Middlebrook and Sutherland wouldn't it affect the interstate as well?

reform4's picture

It does, but not a closure..

... it's noticeable and causes rubbernecking, but it appears they have not deemed it a hazard warranting closure.

I would hold my breath driving through, though.

fischbobber's picture

Or Avoid the Area

It was pretty nasty breathing and the wind can change directions. If one has health issues, one would be well advised to avoid the area completely.

That being said, seeing how the smoke concentration snaked its way through Mechanicsville was a fascinating observation as to how air travels and pollution concentrates form.

R. Neal's picture

Orange alert

Press release from Burchett:

Mayors meet with health, EMA, KFD officials about mulch fire

Knoxville, Tenn. — This morning, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero met with Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan, Knoxville Emergency Management Agency Director Alan Lawson and Knoxville Fire Chief Stan Sharp to discuss the status of the mulch fire burning at Shamrock Organics near downtown.

Based on Knox County Air Quality data, Monday has been designated as an Orange Alert air quality day in Knoxville and Knox County. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the following groups should reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion: people with heart or lung disease, and children and older adults. Everyone else should limit prolonged or heavy exertion.

Members of the public who live or work in the area should remain inside with windows and doors shut, according to Dr. Buchanan. According to Knoxville Fire Department Captain D.J. Corcoran, it is okay to leave your air conditioning running. If possible, he says, it is ideal to turn your outside air intake off and switch your AC unit to re-circulating mode. Health officials say air conditioning units will help filter the air inside your home. Any citizen without air conditioning may go the Red Cross Chapter House at 6921 Middlebrook Pike.

Mayor Burchett has contacted Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Robert Martineau’s office to request additional temporary air quality monitoring and testing stations.

“The health and well being of our citizens is the most important thing in this situation, and I’ve instructed my staff to do everything they can to ensure that public safety is not compromised,” Mayor Burchett said.

“We are working with several agencies to ensure the safety of all our citizens,” said Mayor Rogero. “And we will continue to monitor the progress being made.”

The Knox County Schools have consulted with the health department and appropriate precautions have been taken at schools that are near Shamrock Organics. The school system will continue to monitor the situation closely and make adjustments as needed.

Mayor Burchett and Mayor Rogero will continue to receive updates on the situation from the health department, KEMA, KFD and other departments dealing with the various aspects of the mulch fire.

metulj's picture

Bike ride

I commute by bike and it was awful this morning.

Pam Strickland's picture

I live in Sequoyah, and so

I live in Sequoyah, and so far haven't had my A/C on this year. So inside is fine, but going outside is not so fun. I've been in North Knoxville today, in and out several times. And the building I've been in has had some smoke sneak in through some doors that have been opened.

My asthma inhaler has been my best friend.

50 cents wasted's picture

Mayor Burchett has a background in mulch stuff

Best I remember he went from the mulch buiness to capital hill back in the early 90's, operating the city's facility over on the other side of the interstate just off Middlebrook.

I'm not sure there is anything the city can do regarding preventing future combustion of the mulch mountains other than what they've already got in the contract they have with Shamrock now.

Factchecker's picture

It's very likely this is

It's very likely this is another surprise consequence of global warming, if the killer storms one year ago, which were very much more likely from and at least exacerbated by climate change, caused the huge increase in building scrap that this mulch facility had to take on over the last 12 months.

The owner's remarks in the KNS sounded straight up to me, as to due diligence on his part.

Rachel's picture

Not to be selfish or

Not to be selfish or anything, but MUST the winds shift? So far we've been out of the path of the smoke but apparently tomorrow we get our turn. :(

R. Neal's picture

From the Knox Co. Health Dept.

Knox County Health Department Revises Air Quality Status to Red

Due to smoke from the mulch fire near downtown, the Knox County Air Quality Management monitoring station on Davanna Street has received readings indicating the air quality in the vicinity has worsened from Orange status, unhealthy for sensitive groups, to Red, which means unhealthy for everyone.

Following EPA guidelines for a Red, or unhealthy, Air Quality Index, Knox County Health Department officials recommend that everyone should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outside. People with heart or lung disease and young children and older adults should avoid all physical activity outdoors. Anyone experiencing worsening symptoms should consult with his or her physician.

The public is advised to stay inside with the air conditioning on and set to recirculate inside air, if the unit permits. This will help filter the air inside your home. Those unable to stay inside a business or residence are urged to report to the American Red Cross Chapter House at 6921 Middlebrook Pike.

metulj's picture

"Because of smoke from the

"Because of smoke from the mulch fire near downtown..."

Dammit.

bizgrrl's picture

Should they temporarily close

Should they temporarily close Maynard Elementary? Should they be checking on residents in the surrounding communities to ensure they are safe, healthy, and have transportation to the American Red Cross facility if needed?

metulj's picture

Yes and Yes.

Yes and Yes.

bizgrrl's picture

Not everyone has central heat

Not everyone has central heat and air. A close friend just about 4 miles South of the fire site does not. Just 30 or so years ago a lot of people did not have central heat and air in the area. I wonder how many still do not.

agrarianurbanite's picture

irritated throat and lungs

Chad said that he could smell the smoke from the fire this morning at the corner store near our home, and we are 12 miles south of town.

My throat and lungs are burning from a quick jaunt into town yesterday to pick up my son from school.

I had a lot more written out, but got original comment got thrown to the spam folder...stuff about impact with over 3,000,000 gallons of water used already to combat the fire... dead fish in third creek...health of surrounding communities...don't have time to re-write it all now.

R. Neal's picture

original comment got thrown

original comment got thrown to the spam folder

Sorry about that. We are trying out a new automated spam filter. Guess it isn't very smart. It seems to let a lot of spam through, too. I'll go turn it off now.

bizgrrl's picture

They've done it now. The

They've done it now. The smoke and smell is in Blount County.

Pam Strickland's picture

I have a friend flying in

I have a friend flying in tonight who has been living in India the last couple of years. She's probably going to feel right at home. She'll only be here overnight.

redmondkr's picture

On those days when I top the

On those days when I top the hill on Western near West Haven and can't see Mt LeConte for the haze, I know some of my friends with breathing problems will be struggling to get to rehab. It'll be bad today. The Ft Sanders cardio pulmonary rehab facility is within a mile of the fire as the crow (and the smoke) flies.

vernon's picture

Interesting to see the

Interesting to see the inspection records from the City, they love to inspect and fine local general contractors, and comb through fort sanders for codes violations, I wonder about the inspection history on their own mulch facility.Looks like a complete failure to monitor themselves,someone should have seen this coming, heck you drive down the interstate and that huge mulch pile is so visible,surely there will be fines with the fish kill and air quality problems.
It must be frustrating for the Mayor to have this amount of egg on her administrations face,given their commitment to the environment and codes enforcement.

agrarianurbanite's picture

This was one of the best

This was one of the best stories (WBIR) that I have seen on the fire...

Pam Strickland's picture

Yeah, I thought it was good

Yeah, I thought it was good too, but some of Corcoran's strongest quotes were buried at the end.

agrarianurbanite's picture

Code change needed...

Madeline inherited this mess of a code...

In 2006 the city adopted a set of fire codes developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The NFPA standards provide specific recommendations for mulch piles.

The NFPA code adopted by Knoxville permits mulch piles as high as 60 feet tall, 300 feet wide, and 500 feet in length.

But there is no excuse NOT to change the code, now.

Used to care's picture

How can a mulch pile 60 feet

How can a mulch pile 60 feet tall be turned? Madeline did, as you say, inherit this mess to some extent. But for crying out loud, how do you drive by that thing every day and not think, "wonder what happens if that catches on fire?" Madeline has been in office for a pretty good time. I would say this is a 30/70 between her and Haslam. Neither one of them kept their eye on the ball on this mulch mess. And city council was AOL the whole time. An ecological and economic disaster that should have never happened.

This is the first real test of Madeline's leadership. Can the problem be solved without putting Shamrock out of business and making things worse?

Randy Greaves isn't a villain. This is a Catch 22. Knoxville needed to get rid of the downed trees from the storms. But at some point both Greaves and the city should have gotten together and worked out a contingency plan. But how could Greaves work with Knoxville on a plan? The city is ridiculous to work with.

If the city started today to find a secondary site, how long would it take?

This will run the usual course. Greaves will be run out of business and blamed for everything.

agrarianurbanite's picture

Hmmm, 2006...Haslam had 5

Hmmm, 2006...Haslam had 5 years to deal with it. Madeline has had 3-4 months...where is the 30/70 on that??? No one is to blame. Shamrock is within codes, but the code is bad and needs to be changed.

SO if you drive by it everyday, and saw this potential problem, did you try to bring it to someone's attention?

I saw it about a month ago for the first time while on a school bus about a month ago. I can't see it from my car, which sits too low. Hopefully people driving are looking at I40 and not mulch piles. I guarantee that very few folks realized wtf was going on till now. When I saw it from the school bus, I thought, "Wow. That's BIG," as bulldozers were driving on top of it...but again, the only reason I saw it was because I was being driven (eyes not having to be on I40 and other vehicles racing around me), and I was sitting up high on a school bus giving me long range visibility.

Madeline doesn't drive by it everyday...she probably takes the James White or Gay Street Bridge into downtown. I agree that this is Madeline's first real leadership test, but I don't think Her administration has egg on its face.

vernon's picture

Hmmmm, wasn t Madeline a

Hmmmm, wasn t Madeline a significant part of the Haslam administration, she s no newcomer to this mess,she s been all around it for years,Hmmmmmmmm

Used to care's picture

Wait a second, was Madeline

Wait a second, was Madeline in charge of codes? If so, then this is on her.

agrarianurbanite's picture

No, Madeline was in charge of

No, Madeline was not in charge of codes. She worked in the community development department. This is the kind of stuff she did...

managed a diverse portfolio of programs such as the rehab and construction of affordable housing, neighborhood revitalization, neighborhood commercial redevelopment, historic preservation, blighted property remediation, business start-up and expansion loans, commercial façade improvements, workforce training, homeless services, fair housing, and disability services.

Used to care's picture

The storms were last April

The storms were last April 2011. The storms created the extra mulch.

Haslam had seven months. Madeline had four and a half months.

30/70 was kind.

michael kaplan's picture

is it the mulch heap that

is it the mulch heap that generates the horrible stench at the beginning of sutherland ave near middlebrook pike, or is it one of the concrete plants? i never saw/noticed the heap but i sure smelled the stench.

smalc's picture

It is the mulch that smells.

It is the mulch that smells. The same smell comes from the commercial operation near Watt Road in west Knox.

I am surprised about how many people say they haven't seen the mulch pile. I suppose they rarely use the interstate, because I always found it very noticeable east-bound.

Used to care's picture

See the censor(s) are busy.

See the censor(s) are busy. Must keep the discussion within bounds. Want to bet the chief censor has an open door policy at school?

cafkia's picture

Just to put this in the

Just to put this in the context of the national and state level political discussions, what does the "Its all Madeline's fault" crowd think would have happened if the code had been made much more stringent without this obvious impetus? Would we have heard/read screed after screed about useless red tape, about dirty liberal hippies standing in the way of honest businessmen? Would we have been subjected to dubious explanations of how this was an example of uncaring government holding back saintly job creators?

Unfortunately, there is a political cost to all actions taken, even those taken to protect public safety. I would rather the code had been changed and this all had not happened but I am not delusional about it having a chance of being without political peril. Hopefully, some other municipality can point to this as their reason for enacting reasonable codes so that some good can come out of it.

Somebody's picture

This is true. Without this

This is true. Without this big fire to point to, a change in the code would have been (probably by the same people complaining here) criticized first as over regulation of a private business, and second as costing the taxpayer unnecessary additional money, as smaller, shorter mulch piles would drive up the costs of the whole operation, which the city pays for through its contracts with these very same businesses.

Building and fire codes are one of those things that conservatives decry as an attack on property rights and private enterprise, until something bad happens and they can find a liberal to blame.

R. Neal's picture

*

News reports say Nashville's codes that don't allow such big piles are based on international fire codes.

As in, AGENDA 21!

metulj's picture

Gosh

If only there was a "thumbs down" on this gosh-darnned mulch fire. That'd tell it where to go, by golly!

OK, back to grading term papers. I guess I should just give them all 'As!' Shoot, by golly gosh.

Used to care's picture

this comment will self-destruct in five seconds

This site is 9 acres in size. The mulch piles are only thirty feet in height. So despite all the allegations, Greaves was running the site well and within code. Probably even A21 code.

Let's also not forget MPC. Why is a site like this in the middle of an urban area next to the interstate? Maybe 9 acres wasn't enough? Maybe, if the city, city council, both mayors and MPC were on the job, an emergency site should have been opened?

Guess Renee H. better get busy and sue the city. Oh, can't sue the city. Okay, then put Randy Greaves out of business. Just because.

Heck, they only poured 3 million gallons of water on it. And very little ran off into streams and such, right? And some foam that might not be fish friendly. Can you sell form contaminated mulch? Who pays for the damaged mulch? The city?

Probably the greatest eco-disaster in recent city history. More damage done than by any developer.

We should all blame Bill Haslam. He's a Republican and we know how they are.

R. Neal's picture

Press briefing at 4PM

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knoxville Fire Department Chief Stan Sharp will hold a press briefing at 4 p.m. today, Tuesday, April 17, with other agencies regarding the mulch fire at Shamrock Organics. The briefing will be held at the media compound at Ailor and Sutherland avenues.

R. Neal's picture

Press briefing recap

Mayor Rogero gave a summary of all the agencies working on the situation and what they are doing, including KFD, KPD, KCSO, Rural Metro, Airport Authority, Knox Co. Health Dept., TEMA, TDEC and probably some others I can't remember. She also said that once the fire is extinguished there will be a "full review" to determine what happened and how to prevent it in the future. She said the city's number one priority is public health and safety and safety of firefighters at the scene.

KFD Chief Sharp said they have 24 hour shifts still pouring water on the fire, but it has reduced somewhat from 90,000 gal. per hour they were pouring. He said they have been able to make their way into the center of the fire using crash equipment provided by the airport, and have started moving piles around so they can get more water on it. They expect to now make better progress over the next 12 to 36 hours.

KCHD Director Martha Buchanan said there will be fines for burning and air quality, but she doesn't know how much yet because it is per day and they won't know how many days until its over.

Public Service director David Brace said they would be reviewing the contract with Shamrock with regards to compliance.

No one has yet tallied up the cost, but Chief Sharp said it will be mostly overtime and water.

Factchecker's picture

The former, michael. I've

I think it's been the former, michael. I've kind of gotten to like the smell of mulch, at least in small doses.

BTW, correction to my earlier comment, which was done late at night and from memory:

the huge increase in building scrap storm waste that this mulch facility had to take on in over the last 12 months.

mrvlknxor's picture

Interim mayor

Haslam became governor in January 2011. The interim mayor was in place during the storms.

Factchecker's picture

Point being? Burchett

Point being? Burchett already put in the fix to allow this on state level.

mrvlknxor's picture

Point being ....

Earlier comment laid 30/70 blame between Rogero and Haslam. I was pointing out that a poster (blocked) said Haslam was responsible from time of the April 2011 storms until the new mayor took office. That is incorrect. Haslam took ofice in Nashville in January 2011, so if one is spreading blame between city officials between last April's storms and this week's fire, Haslam was not in office. Yes, a deeper analysis can assign a major part of the blame to Burchett, but still oversight of the mulch site is also the city's responsibility.

JCBurnett's picture

"Earlier comment laid 30/70

"Earlier comment laid 30/70 blame between Rogero and Haslam. I was pointing out that a poster (blocked) said Haslam was responsible from time of the April 2011 storms until the new mayor took office. That is incorrect. Haslam took ofice in Nashville in January 2011, so if one is spreading blame between city officials between last April's storms and this week's fire, Haslam was not in office. Yes, a deeper analysis can assign a major part of the blame to Burchett, but still oversight of the mulch site is also the city's responsibility."

Uh Chief, that works out to about 30/70. Your point? Oh, it's Burchett's fault. How exactly? None of that makes sense. You were trying to refute a point, not prove it.

metulj's picture

He wrote the damn legislation

He wrote the damn legislation that exempted mulch facilities from TDEC oversight.

JCBurnett's picture

So what? That absolves the

So what? That absolves the city of responsibility? TDEC is so stupid a mulch facility wouldn't be possible. We need this facility.

metulj's picture

I love the desperation to

I love the desperation to hang this on Rogero. The trail leads back to Burchett. Luckily, there's lots of road kill to eat along the way.

JCBurnett's picture

'The trail leads back to

'The trail leads back to Burchett.'

You don't know squat about this. TDEC would screw up the regs to where Knoxville couldn't have a mulch facility.

Burchett has zero responsibility for this. If Rogero puts Shamrock out of business this will be the worst environmental result Knoxville could get.

metulj's picture

Desperation. Let me guess:

Desperation. Let me guess: there's something you want to do that TDEC won't let you do the way you want to do it.

JCBurnett's picture

You are right. I need/want a

You are right. I need/want a mulch facility in Knoxville. And TDEC would make that impossible.

You don't know anything about TDEC. I remember when I had a boat and was told I couldn't wash it because the soap would go in the lake and the marina would get fined. But coast guard rules require a clean windshield. I moved to another marina.

TDEC is the worst bureaucracy in Tennessee.

So it will be Burchett's fault when Shamrock closes?

You are a joke.

R. Neal's picture

You are right. I need/want a

You are right. I need/want a mulch facility in Knoxville. And TDEC would make that impossible.

How so?

JCBurnett's picture

You can't wash a boat in a

You can't wash a boat in a marina? And you ask 'how so'?

I think that is a good example.

Hey Vernon, what do you know about TDEC? Let's hear from someone who actually has to work under their rules.

R. Neal's picture

Sounds like your beef is with

Sounds like your beef is with the marina operator, not TDEC.

JCBurnett's picture

The 'manager' pissed everyone

The 'manager' pissed everyone off. It was her way of getting us to complain to TDEC. But she was right. TDEC came to the marina and threatened to fine the marina. So I am no fan of TDEC. They are thugs. It was easy to move and solve the problem. That was the only marina I knew of that listened to TDEC.

Nelle's picture

#first_world_problems

#first_world_problems

reform4's picture

I wash my boat all the time.

Concord Marina.

What the heck are you washing your boat with? Hydrochloric acid? PCB oils?

JCBurnett's picture

Enviro-friendly soap from the

Enviro-friendly soap from the boat store. What do you use?

reform4's picture

So..

... Why won't they let you wash your boat??

metulj's picture

Oh, You don't have to worry

Oh, You don't have to worry about there not being a mulch facility. I am sure plenty of folks are circling the carcass on Shamrock. Ultimately, the fault lies with the operator, but the risk could have been minimized by oversight. What happened to that oversight? That's the cruel joke that was played on poor folks in Mechanicsville.

JCBurnett's picture

Do you know how the fire

Do you know how the fire started? Then how do you know where the 'fault' lies?

Could you shut up? Let's wait until we know what happened. All you do is pollute the stream of discourse.

mrvlknxor's picture

Brown, not Haslam

My simple point was that the 30/70 ratio was between Rogero and INTERIM MAYOR Daniel Brown. Haslam was in Nashville before last spring's storms.

agrarianurbanite's picture

Let's rehash it and bring the

Let's rehash it and bring the story up to date for all those who won't go back and read all 4,237 comments...

Once Upon a Time in a town called Knoxville, there was a mulch fire and...

Vernon said

It must be frustrating for the Mayor to have this amount of egg on her administrations face,given their commitment to the environment and codes enforcement.

To which agrarianurbanite commented

Madeline inherited this mess of a code...

In 2006 the city adopted a set of fire codes developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The NFPA standards provide specific recommendations for mulch piles.

The NFPA code adopted by Knoxville permits mulch piles as high as 60 feet tall, 300 feet wide, and 500 feet in length.

But there is no excuse NOT to change the code, now.

Then Used to care decided to start laying blame...

How can a mulch pile 60 feet tall be turned? Madeline did, as you say, inherit this mess to some extent. But for crying out loud, how do you drive by that thing every day and not think, "wonder what happens if that catches on fire?" Madeline has been in office for a pretty good time. I would say this is a 30/70 between her and Haslam. Neither one of them kept their eye on the ball on this mulch mess.

That's when agrarianurbanite asked

Hmmm, 2006...Haslam had 5 years to deal with it. Madeline has had 3-4 months...where is the 30/70 on that??? No one is to blame. Shamrock is within codes, but the code is bad and needs to be changed.

Now, agrarianurbanite didn't realize that Used was only counting from April 2011 because Used didn't state that to anyone except himself. Agrarianurbanite refereed to the original adoption of the code in 2006 since that was what had been originally used as a target point for discussion.

Agrarianurbanite went on to conclude

I agree that this is Madeline's first real leadership test, but I don't think Her administration has egg on its face.

which set Used off into a tangent, which earned him a slew of thumbs-down comments "blocking" him from the discussion until he behaves.

The End

And honestly, I don't know which Mayor (city or county) adopted the code in 2006...I mean for god's sake...who allows up to 60 foot piles that are 300 feet wide and 500 feet in length so close to town center in an area that is surrounded by neighborhoods? That's just some bad judgement to begin with.

But now we know...so let's zip-it and move on to solutions instead of throwing shit at each other like a bunch of monkeys.

Factchecker's picture

We need regulation with

We need regulation with enforcement to prevent this crap.

R. Neal's picture

Apparently, NFPA

Apparently, NFPA fire safety codes are used by the city. The part dealing with wood waste products is pretty general.

Here's a more thorough standard from Ventura, CA that requires, among other things, push out areas sufficient to level the largest pile out to a depth of two feet.

From what I've read, you can't put out a mulch pile fire by pouring water on it. You have to break it up to get to the fire.

Both standards require access lanes among the piles for firefighting equipment, and onsite earth moving equipment for spreading out piles.

The NFPA standard also requires maximum turnover time (the time a pile can sit around) of one year, less depending on conditions.

Both standards require regular temperature monitoring.

Factchecker's picture

What kind of person would

What kind of person would advocate that a mayor go poking around unregulated infrastructure just looking for potential problems? And what should this mayor to do if they found something? Thirdly, what would Free Market Republicans think of such a mayor that did this?

For the answer to the last question, one probably only needs to go to this comment section of KNS after Mayor Rogero politely cracked down on code violators in Fort Sanders. And that was when you have existing codes and when there are other negative impacts besides fire hazards.  

At least this fire should inoculate this mayor for the political attacks that Republicans will inevitably launch next election regarding those inspections.

vernon's picture

Why can t we get rid of brush

Why can t we get rid of brush with a pit burner,we used to be able to get a permit in the city and county to dispose of trees and brush using a pit burner.It burns quickly with no smoke but they were outlawed by knox city about 8 years ago.Loudon county I know still allows them by permit.It would greatly reduce these huge piles of mulch.
I don t blame Madeline for this situation but the city administration is heavy handed when dealing with erosion issues with local contractors, they fine first and ask questions later.They have an appeals board which is a waste of time,they are crushing local contractors.I d like to see their inspection history on their own mulch facility.It seems they deal more harshly with local independents than this mulch facility that they are tied to.I know this owned by an independent businessman and I hope this doesn t put him under but the city has some responsibility here if they have looked past his operation because it had a contract for the cities brush disposal and lowers the boom and aggressively cites local general contractors for,in most cases, no environmental damage.The city fines people on a regular basis for no runoff on a jobsite,this stuff is causing fish kills and according to drainage regs,it is exempt from being considered an illicit discharge because the water came from fire trucks,something isn t right about that.

metulj's picture

Follow the gold brick road

Talk to Burchett. He changed the rules.

vernon's picture

Thats BS, I deal with these

Thats BS, I deal with these bureaucracies on a regular basis,The city is over the top- arbitrary and capricious in the way they deal with storm water issues,They are the worst,the county under recent leadership is not far behind, but I must say TDEC is the most reasonable to deal with out of those three.This whole mulch mess is contracted by the city,permitted by the city and regulated by the city.I don t believe the county is having a mulch problem.I went down to view the creek and the city has not even implemented any runoff control devises,dead fish and black water are running out into the main channel as we speak.you are clueless about the double standards up there,why is there no control device in that stream,the only barrier that's there is one that's been there for a year.where is the clean water network?,Oh they re not on this one because they are integrated in the current administration, a whole new set of good ol boys in charge now. You want to pin this on Burchett! that's funny, "Nice Try"

R. Neal's picture

KCHD said there will be fines

KCHD said there will be fines for each day the fire burns.

Rogero said there will be a thorough review of the incident and the codes and contracts once the fire is put out.

City Council says they will review mulch ordinances (hint: there aren't any.)

Not sure what more current city officials can do right now.

County officials seem to think it is sufficient to blame innocent parties.

Somebody could get (or should be) fired, though, if it is found that city officials were derelict in their oversight duties (regardless of which mayor's watch it occurred on).

Seems like simple temperature monitoring and reporting would have prevented this. In the version of NFPA codes I saw there were no specific requirements for this, just a suggestion that it might be a good idea.

reform4's picture

What we don't need

.. is a constant merry-go-round of greenwaste contractors.

Contractor X runs fast and loose, causes fire, gets fined until they go out of business.

Contractor Y (perhaps the same management team as bankrupt company X) comes in, gets the new contract, but not being subject to any new inspections runs the same way until fire #2 happens.

Rinse and repeat.

and repeat.

and repeat.

In the end, what happens? Attorneys do well. We waste a lot of time in finger-pointing meetings and tasks forces. And we spend $100,000 to $1M each time for additional hospitalizations, firefighting, airport visibility staff meetings, emergency preparedness team meetings, etc.

versus, I dunno, a monthly inspection by somebody with a temperature probe and someone who knows how to look for vents on a pile? Maybe a rule that the piles can't be sixty feet high?

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

reform4's picture

I assume you mean..

..open pit burning with an air curtain destructor (ACD) system? Not quite smoke free, just a lot less than plain open burning, and probably more expensive than mulching- even if done the right way.

vernon's picture

I guarantee you that the pit

I guarantee you that the pit burner is the most cost effective way to dispose of trees,its not even close.

metulj's picture

Ask the Jersey City

Ask the Jersey City Incinerator Authority,

Edit: I looked into the air curtain destructors that Vernon is talking about. First, the biggest company out there has its shit together about the numbers. Still, with one 10 ton unit working 10 hours a day, the reported mass of brush at shamrock would take nearly 19 months to consume with no additional inputs. Now, that says nothing about the glaring fact that no such machine was on site, but just to play catch up with such a system is an onerous task. I am still skeptical about the emissions on these jokers, but I can totally see how such a unit even in a supplementary role would work well.

Why? PGBurners, the big outfit, has power cogeneration units that use heat exchange from the destructor to give you as much as 200kw of juice to push back on to the grid. At the national average, running 10hours a day with one unit, that's $41,000 in income off the power alone if you were to just burn the reported mass at shamrock with no additional inputs. Build in carbon credits and incentives from the government and sales of the ash for fertilizer and landfill cover and that's a helluva small business plan.

Still, I don't know about locating such a unit in an urban residential area, but theres upside here. I rag on you Vernon, but at least in a supplemental role it makes sense and fits a lot of what Rogero wants to do.

vernon's picture

Nice to be on the same

Nice to be on the same page,but a little scary

metulj's picture

My error was conflating an

My error was conflating an ACD with an incinerator. Again, at least as part of a comprehensive disposal regime, the things make sense. I just read up on the portable units. That's a winner in a disaster area for sure.

Hell, I wish I had some money to invest in a few of these things and contract out to burn off at disasters. One skidder, one front end loader and one ACD at one set price per day. Delivery with operators within 24 hours after call.

reform4's picture

ACDs are nice technology..

... but let's not be naive and say there is "no smoke". I have yet to see any literature on them indicating they are zero emissions.

That being said, the reality is the relative cost of disposal. With mulching, you not only dispose of the waste, you have a sellable by-product.

With incineration, there are costs (you have to co-fire with a real fuel like natural gas to keep the burn temp up), operation and controls are a bit more complex, more capital investment, etc. A large operation can generate power to sell, but probably a fraction of the value of mulch that can be sold (and then we have to cut down more trees to make the mulch we want).

The pit burners with ACDs tend to be found in 'spot' operations, like disasters where sudden influxes of waste have to be dealt with. And since that's what kind of happened here, we should probably think about this for a future storm / disaster plan, so we don't overwhelm the local mulching facility with more material than they can manage.

In Shamrock's defense, did they have a right under their contract to refuse excessive levels of brush from the city, KUB, etc? I'm guessing their contract required them to take it and put them in a position of being overwhelmed. So, perhaps the local emergency action committee (I forget it's acronym.. KCEAC?) should take up this issue of portable incinerators for the next set of storms, since it appears to be an annual event now.

R. Neal's picture

here's their

here's their contract:

(link...)

R. Neal's picture

Sorry, didn't mean to send

Sorry, didn't mean to send you on a scavenger hunt. Been busy, as I'm sure you are.

Here's their response to the question about handling unexpected volume:

5.2.j. The Company has the proven ability demonstrated to the City over the previous decade without fail to accept, process and dispose of unanticipated increased levels of yard waste volume during times of severe weather conditions, unexpected increases in product volume, etc. Knox Ag, Inc. has the personnel, equipment and facility capacity to handle anything that has been sent our way. Our demand for product is greater than our supply each spring.

So it's not very specific. And judging from comments by the company and other developments in today's news reports (i.e. having to haul off excess inventory to make room for firefighters to work the fire), they got a little overwhelmed.

Factchecker's picture

From what I've read, you

From what I've read, you can't put out a mulch pile fire by pouring water on it. You have to break it up to get to the fire.

Did our fire chief deputy, mentioned in the other thread, miss this course in firefighting? This could be quite serious. Of course, what do those granola crunchers in California know?

R. Neal's picture

Also, re. the press briefing

Also, re. the press briefing yesterday...

It was probably a good idea to let people know what is being done, what resources are being brought to bear, and that there will be some accountability rather than letting the media and KNS commenters (and Burchett) shape the story. There wasn't much said, though, about affected residences and businesses.

But I have to say this. I watched it on WBIR. After the press briefing their reporter buttonholed the KFD public information officer and did a feature about Kroger providing water and Firehouse Subs providing food for the firefighters.

It turned into a two minute commercial for Firehouse Subs, with shots of their store interior and employees preparing sandwiches and the reporter doing most of the talking.

I get the "human interest" aspect, and you expect this kind of stuff from the media, but city officials should avoid such BS.

For one thing, the takeaway might be that KFD can't even feed and hydrate their firefighters without the kindness of strangers, much less manage a major crisis operation.

alan swartz's picture

need to change the name of this place

I think maybe BlockedViews would work.

JCBurnett's picture

Have to agree. This blocking

Have to agree. This blocking is silly.

R. Neal's picture

Several people, including

Several people, including city officials, are hoping for rain. Ironically...

Bone-dry materials have a low chance to spontaneously heat because the lack of moisture prevents the initial biological heating. However, a good rain may jump-start the biological process. The scary part of this scenario is that a fire may begin within a small moist section of an otherwise very dry pile.

Also:

Fire Fighting: Collectively, the survey responses endorsed the practice of fighting a spontaneous combustion fire with a wheel loader, excavator or bulldozer along with a fire hose. It was clear that the burning or hot material in the pile needs to be removed before it can be extinguished with water. It is ineffective to merely spray water on a burning pile, unless a "surface fire" was caused by cigarettes, equipment heat and sparks.

Source: Amerimulch: Fires in Mulch Piles – Advice and Experience from the Industry

reform4's picture

Simple physics and chemistry.

Tall mounds = higher levels of pressure.

Within a pile of wood waste, high pressure, low oxygen, and normal chemical break lead to increases in temperature. The taller the mount and the more the pressure (and less oxygen from not turning) = higher temperatures, eventually to the point of self-ignition. Same thing that happened in the sinkhole at Tedford Road.

metulj's picture

I called up my FiL

I called up my FiL (environmental engineer) about the temperatures possible in a pile like this. I figured 200F. Way off. Depending on the material and the height of the pile, core temps can exceed 400F with ease. But we don't know if it was the mulch or the brush that was ignited. He suggested that it could have been a glass bottle, some sunlight and an exceptionally dry tinder that set it off. That's an interesting theory.

R. Neal's picture

Probability is 90%+ that it

Probability is 90%+ that it was spontaneous combustion. If they don't turn the piles regularly it can supposedly happen in a matter of weeks. Or it could be a carelessly tossed cigarette or something, but apparently that would be a surface fire and easily extinguished.

(Qualifiers because that's just some stuff I read on a mulch industry internet site.)

redmondkr's picture

It would seem that a system

It would seem that a system of refrigerant lines in these mulch piles combined with temperature monitoring could supply a good amount of heat for a modified geothermal assisted heat pump. Probably not economically feasible though, just the thoughts of an old man who used to read a lot of Popular Science magazines.

R. Neal's picture

KCHD AQ Update

PlumeCityLevel_418AM.jpg

KNOX COUNTY AIR QUALITY UPDATE

Knox County Health Department enlists National Weather Service Help To Predict Smoke Impact Areas

For Knox County’s air quality, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that all the air isn’t unhealthy. In fact, today most areas are in the Green or good range. However, the air within the areas impacted by smoke from the mulch fire near downtown is unhealthy. And the affected area changes with weather and wind patterns that move the smoke through the air.

To help inform the public on areas where smoke is prevalent, Knox County Health Department has enlisted the services and support of the National Weather Service in Morristown. Forecasters are using HYSPLIT computer modeling, which is often used by the U.S. Forestry Service to predict smoke behavior, to project the path the mulch smoke will take through the community. The maps will be posted on the KCHD website at (link...) and linked through its Facebook page with twice daily updates on the smoke trajectory. NOTE: Please see the map attached with this email. Notice the different colors in the plume from its source to outlying areas. Yellow denotes the densest smoke (at the fire scene), blue is next, then green and turquoise is the least dense.

This is important because where there is smoke, the air quality is unhealthy. If the air where you are looks smoky or if you can smell smoke, the air quality is poor. In the affected areas, Knox County Health Department officials recommend that everyone should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outside. In smoky areas, the public is advised to stay inside with the air conditioning on and set to recirculate inside air, if the unit permits. This will help filter the air inside your home.

People with heart or lung disease and young children and older adults should avoid all activity outdoors. Anyone experiencing worsening symptoms should consult his or her physician. Those unable to stay inside a business or residence are urged to report to the American Red Cross Chapter House at 6921 Middlebrook Pike.

Other important smoke-related information:

• The smoke is wood smoke, and does not appear to contain toxins, but does contain tiny particulate matter, which can irritate existing heart and lung problems.

• The public is asked not to use lawn mowing or other gas combustion home equipment to avoid adding additional pollutants to the air.

• Presently, all open burning is banned in Knox County. No burn permits will be issued until further notice.

• This event will continue changing day-to-day depending on weather conditions and progress on extinguishing the fire. Please consult the maps on KCHD’s website (listed above) and Facebook page.

reform4's picture

Not all wood smoke is the same

Theres quite a difference in the products of low temp/oxygen combustion and normal open flame combustion, like a campfire. Lots more formaldehyde can form. I can't say if that's the case, but it's an issue we researched in detail for Tedford (being underground, low oxygen was definitely a factor).

But the PM itself is bad, and particularly for people with hart conditions- fine PM can enter the bloodstream and irritate arteries, triggering heart attacks.

AQI Red = no havy exertion, anyone, and stay indoors. Put off mowing, put off that jog, etc. these levels can be serious stuff, even for fit people.

metulj's picture

It's not about being right,

It's not about being right, baby. It's about being vindicated.

JCBurnett's picture

Do you know how the fire

Do you know how the fire started? If it is in the 'core', wonder how that happened? People forget NRR and their business practices. What is the razor rule, the simplest explanation is the answer? Why did it take 18 years for this to happen?

You make too many accusations without evidence. And you're a blowhard.

metulj's picture

Please point to an accusation

Please point to an accusation other than the other thread where I accuse Burchett of politics rather than leadership. Keep trying. It is reasonable to assume that the fire is a liability of the business owner. It isn't reasonable to blame Rogero for it. That's happened now, hasn't it?

JCBurnett's picture

blowhard idiot

'It's not about being right, baby. It's about being vindicated.'

Duh.

metulj's picture

That swipe was at you. Think.

That swipe was at you. Think.

JCBurnett's picture

I think you are a blowhard.

I think you are a blowhard. You can dish it out, but taking it is another matter.

vernon's picture

city contracted with it,

city contracted with it, permitted it and inspects it-The city owns this, not entirely because they ll try to blame the operater for everything, but they have ownership in this and they are not handling it well.No best management practices have been implemented in the creek leading to the river,as of yesterday.They need to deal with that crap running out into the main channel,but I see no effort there.

R. Neal's picture

Shamrock operator Greaves

reform4's picture

Oh, please...

.. if he doesn't understand how spontaneous combustion can happen in piles 70 feet high, he does NOT need to be operating this business.

It's as if your surgeon didn't know that the heart is what pumps your blood, that would make anyone run away with the IV still in their arm.

Seriously?

R. Neal's picture

The article is a little

The article is a little confusing, but he appears to be referring to brush piles that got ignited and he doesn't think it was sparks from the mulch fires. As I recall it was pretty windy the day of and before the fire started and he doesn't address the deep mulch fires except to say they happen all the time and they put them out.

reform4's picture

"they happen all the time"

um, OK then.

(link...)

(start at 2:50)

alan swartz's picture

".. if he doesn't understand

".. if he doesn't understand how spontaneous combustion can happen in piles 70 feet high, he does NOT need to be operating this business."

Brad Mayes wrote today in the KNS comments he thought it might be arson.

Did KFD ever request a fly over on day one with an infrared camera? That would have been a good thing to do. Were there multiple sources of ignition?

This business has operated for 18 years. They have had small fires for 18 years. They have a procedure to detect fires. They have never had a large fire.

So why dismiss arson so easily? Do you have any proof it wasn't?

BTW, the piles were only thirty feet high. Not seventy.

Factchecker's picture

Colbert's 1st Law: Americans like to burn things

When it comes to burning, "most cost effective" is pretty much synonymous with dirtiest and most neglectful of long term costs.

vernon's picture

Not at all-The intense heat

Not at all-The intense heat from pit burner w blower creates little to no smoke,Just because it makes sense doesn't make it wrong.
the disaster we see today is really great,clean,cost effective, maybe you re right-

Just my opinion's picture

When this goes to lawyer

When this goes to lawyer land, don't be surprised for some blame to be cast on KFD for using the wrong tactics to fight this fire. Calling in the crash trucks from the airport sounds like a good idea, but they carry the wrong type of foam. The foam they carry is designed to extinguish burning liquids. The "new" foam (FireAide) has been around for years. It is simply a foam that is designed to extinguish Class A type of fires (Wood, coal, paper, etc.) They have been using the "spray and pray" method of firefighting. Spray a lot of water, and pray that the fire goes out. With all we spend on KFD, you would think that they would use modern methods. Sounds like someone needs to update some training.

R. Neal's picture

City press release: new requirements

CITY ISSUES REQUIREMENTS FOR RESUMPTION OF MULCH OPERATION

In the aftermath of the mulch fire earlier this month at Shamrock Organic Products, the City of Knoxville has issued a set of requirements the company must meet in order to resume business at its site on Ailor Avenue.

In a Fire Code Inspection Report dated April 27, the Fire Marshal’s Office outlined the steps that Shamrock owner Randy Greaves must take before restarting his mulch operation. In a letter, also dated April 27, City Public Service Director David Brace listed requirements Shamrock must meet before the City will resume delivering yard waste to the company under its contract with the City. Both documents are attached.

"This contract is an important part of our efforts to divert waste from our local landfills," Brace said. "But our primary concerns are for the safety of our community and our environment. We suspended delivery to Shamrock during the fire, and we will not take material there again until Mr. Greaves takes these steps to ensure that it can be stored and processed safely."

The Fire Marshal is requiring a comprehensive fire hazard analysis and fire protection plan from Shamrock. Temporary restrictions, until Shamrock's fire protection plan is approved by the Fire Marshal, include but are not limited to the following:

• No pile shall exceed a maximum of 25 feet in height, 200 feet in length, and 100 feet in width;

• Piles must be separated by at least 30 feet;

• There must be easy and safe access at all times for Fire Department and other emergency personnel;

• The property owner must have an employee on site at all times as a "fire watch."

In addition to the fire protection plan, before resuming delivery of material, the Public Works Department is requiring that Shamrock:

• Develop a stormwater management plan and obtain coverage under the City’s Special Pollution Abatement Permit;

• Test all remaining material on site to assure the City that it is safe for sale to the public and for use in residential settings; and

• Establish safe and efficient access to the site for City equipment and personnel in the daily delivery of yard waste.

The City’s review of the fire is ongoing. Both documents are on the City’s website at (link...) (link...)

bizgrrl's picture

I'm guessing that somewhere

I'm guessing that somewhere in all of the references the company will be required to turn the piles on the required regular basis to prevent internal heat build-up.

R. Neal's picture

Also, what about

Also, what about excess/overflow capacity?

rikki's picture

The property owner must have

The property owner must have an employee on site at all times as a "fire watch."

That is braindead, busy-body bureaucracy in action. Maybe when it's sufficiently dry and windy an after-hours sentinel would be prudent, but for 300+ days out of the year, this is a mandate to pay an employee to do nothing.

R. Neal's picture

The letter is a little more

The letter is a little more specific about the "fire watch." It looks like this is only a requirement until an approved fire prevention plan is developed and implemented.

Still didn't see anything about excess/overflow capacity, though.

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