Fountain City residents concerned about smoke from funeral home

(source: Robbie Arrington)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Some Fountain City neighbors were upset after seeing black smoke come from a crematory.

Gentry Griffey Funeral Chapel has been performing cremations for five years. Before it opened, some homeowners fought planned ideas for its location and said it wasn’t appropriate to be placed in a residential area. In the end, it narrowly passed a city council vote.

Robbie Arrington took a video in front of Gentry Griffey Funeral Chapel and Crematory last week. It showed black smoke billowing out of a chimney.

“We were not served. This community was not served,” said Penny Berridge.

Berridge lives down the street from the crematory. She was uneasy after seeing the video.

“It’s a health hazard. It’s a visual hazard. There is no reason for it,” she said.

An employee told WATE 6 On Your Side they have never seen black smoke come out of their chimneys before. He said when they saw it, they immediately called Knox County Air Quality Management and they said there was no issue.

“It’s belching cadmium and mercury and hundreds of chemicals,” said Berridge.

Knox County Air Quality Management also said the funeral chapel meets all of its requirements for a permit. That means it follows regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It’s an issue that shouldn’t be an issue. I don’t see why it should bother anybody,” said John Ricci.

Ricci has lived in an apartment right next door for four years.

“It doesn’t bother anybody. I’ve never smelled anything. I’ve never even seen smoke come from the building,” he said.

“I’ve seen it. It didn’t bellow black stuff like that. It was just grey poofy,” said Berridge.

Gentry Griffey said it usually performs cremations during the day, but the emissions are never visible. In a statement online about the black smoke, it said they frequently monitor the equipment but there was a unique situation that created a brief intermittent emission of smoke.

“I mean its a crematorium. That happens,” said Ricci.

Berridge thought others need to ask for change too.

“Everybody who has a small child that doesn’t want mercury dumped on their head,” she said.

Knox County Air Quality Management conducts annual inspections there and the last one was on May 31. Records said the only issue was a temperature recorder that needed repair and that was fixed by the time of a follow up inspection in June.

Gentry Griffey said the black smoke came out for about three minutes. Knox County Air Quality Management said it is perfectly legal to perform cremations during the day.

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