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Smokey Mountain Smelters


Building at Smokey Mountain site prior to demolition. (source: OSC.net)


Stockpiled drums near leachate outfall on the southwest nose of the waste piles. (source: OSC.net)


Building Demolition (source: OSC.net)


Cleanup operations at Smokey Mountain site. (source: OSC.net)

Additional Resources
Site Summary Profile
EPA ID: TND098071061
Location: Knox County, TN
Lat/Long: 35.9191830,-83.9264810
Congressional District:
NPL Status: Proposed: 3/4/2010; Final: 9/29/2010
Affected Media: Soils, Sediment, Surface Water
Cleanup Status: Initial cleanup actions have been completed; additional studies are underway
Human Exposure Under Control: EPA is working to determine whether there are human exposures to contaminants
Groundwater Migration Under Control: Insufficient data
Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use: No
Site Reuse/Redevelopment: None
Site Manager: Rusty Kestle (kestle.rusty@epa.gov)

Current Site Status

The Smokey Mountain Smelters site is the location of former fertilizer and smelting operations. EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 2010 because of contaminated soils, sediment and surface water resulting from past industrial operations at the site. EPA and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) have investigated site conditions and taken steps to clean up the site in order to protect people and the environment from contamination. In 2008, EPA repaired the fence surrounding the site. In 2010, EPA demolished vacant on-site buildings. In 2011, EPA removed a portion of on-site waste and capped the rest. EPA continues to stabilize the top layer of the cap with grass. EPA and TDEC continue to monitor site conditions and investigate whether contamination on site could potentially threaten people living and working near the site. Once this investigation is completed, EPA will issue a cleanup plan (a Record of Decision, or ROD) to address all remaining contamination. EPA continues to update residents about the site by issuing fact sheets and related information about the progress of the site investigation.

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Site Location and Background

The site is located at 1508 Maryville Pike in Knoxville, Tennessee, four miles south of downtown Knoxville in a mixed industrial, commercial and residential area. A low-income apartment complex (Montgomery Village) is located to the south, within 75 feet of the site. The complex houses about 560 residents. Some single-family homes are also located nearby. The apartment complex includes recreational and playground areas and a daycare facility. Undeveloped property is located west of the site. Additional single-family homes are located to the east of the site and commercial and industrial properties are located to the north. The site is fenced and graded. EPA is working to establish grass on the site.

A series of fertilizer and agricultural chemical companies operated at the site from the 1920s to the 1960s. Smokey Mountain Smelters, also known as Rotary Furnace, Inc., operated at the site from 1979 to 1994. The facility was a secondary aluminum smelting operation. The process involved the melting of scrap aluminum and aluminum dross, a smelting waste by-product, and casting the molten aluminum metal bars. Raw materials at the facility primarily consisted of scrap aluminum and aluminum dross. Waste material from the operation was primarily saltcake, a residue with high salt and low metal content from dross smelting. Other waste materials included baghouse dust and discarded aluminum dross.

In 1983, the State of Tennessee’s Division of Solid Waste Management issued a notice to Smokey Mountain Smelters after concluding that the site was “unsuitable for use as an industrial landfill.” However, landfilling continued to occur on site for several years. In addition, the Knox County Department for Air Pollution Control documented numerous citizen complaints regarding excessive air emissions from the site and cited Smokey Mountain Smelters for several air quality violations in the 1980s.

View site location map (PDF). (1 pg, 830K, About PDF)

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Threats and Contaminants

After shutting down smelting operations in 1994, former operators left much of the site in a waste pile consisting of saltcake and aluminum dross without a protective underlying cover or drainage controls. Dross and saltcake release heat and ammonia gas and leach aluminum, ammonia, chlorides and other contaminants if these materials come into contact with water (e.g., during heavy rains).

Site investigations conducted between 1997 and 2006 found high levels of arsenic, lead and aluminum in surface waters, high levels of aluminum, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heptachlor/heptachlor epoxide and ammonia in the on-site waste piles, and high levels of ammonia in air space located above the waste piles. Additional investigations found high levels of these contaminants (arsenic, lead and aluminum, chlorides) in water running off from the site. In addition, investigations found high levels of contaminants (e.g., ammonia) along the length of the unnamed stream that feeds into Flenniken Branch downstream of the site. EPA OSC.net has more details on these early sampling activities.
In 2008, EPA observed that site fencing was in poor condition and would not keep trespassers out. Trespassers had cut holes in the fence and created an informal path leading from the site to the nearby apartment complex. In response, EPA initiated a short-term cleanup action to provide stronger security measures, keep trespassers away from hazardous substances that remained on site and collect more information to decide if EPA needed to remove or treat more waste. In 2010, EPA demolished vacant buildings on site. EPA properly disposed or recycled all demolition material. In 2011, EPA removed a portion of on-site waste capped the rest.

EPA and TDEC have stopped the immediate physical hazards posed to site trespassers demolishing buildings that were collapsing on site. EPA and TDEC have partly stopped the threat from potential contact with on site and off site by secondary aluminum smelting waste by capping the waste piles on site. Site-related contamination has not affected ground water at the site.

EPA is conducting a human health risk assessment at the site that will identify whether site contamination could potentially threaten children living nearby.

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Investigation and Cleanup Responsibility / Oversight

EPA leads site investigation and cleanup activities in cooperation with TDEC.

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Site Cleanup Plan

EPA has taken short-term cleanup actions to stop immediate threats. EPA is now undertaking a remedial investigation and feasibility study. EPA should complete these by the end of 2012. Once completed, EPA will issue a cleanup plan (a Record of Decision, or ROD) to address remaining waste materials.

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Cleanup Progress

EPA has taken short-term cleanup actions at the site. These actions include:

EPA OSC.net has more details about EPA’s short-term cleanup activities.

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Enforcement Activities

EPA has been unable to identify any viable potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for the site. EPA continues to work to identify viable site PRPs. EPA is using federal funds for site cleanup activities.

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Community Involvement

EPA has worked with the community and its state partner to develop a long-term cleanup plan for the site, reflecting the Agency’s commitment to safe, healthy communities and environmental protection. Community engagement and public outreach are core components of EPA program activities.

EPA has conducted a range of community involvement activities to solicit community input and to make sure the public remains informed about site activities throughout the cleanup process. Outreach efforts have included public notices, interviews and information meetings.  

EPA distributed site fact sheets to the community in 2010 and 2011.

In late July 2011, EPA held a meeting with the Montgomery Village Tenant Association. EPA will host future public meetings as work at the site progresses.

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Future Work

After the remedial investigation and feasibility study report is completed, EPA will issue a cleanup plan (ROD) to address remaining waste materials.

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Additional Information

EPA keeps additional site documents and information in a site information repository at the location below. EPA also posts site documents, when available, on EPA’s CERCLIS Site Profile page. For documents not available on the website, please contact the Region 4 Freedom of Information Office

Site Repository

EPA has not yet established a repository for the site.

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