Around 4 p.m. Saturday, multiple agencies including the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation responded to a field on Spruce Pine Road in a rural area of western Hawkins County on an anonymous tip that Robert Price of Price Septic Service was dumping sewage illegally.
Among the other agencies that responded were the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency.
When authorities arrived, they found the Price septic truck partly on Spruce Pine Road near the Jordan Road intersection. In the field adjacent to the truck was a freshly dug hole full of raw sewage.
Price, 52, 807 Old Highway 11-W, Rogersville, reportedly told HCSO Deputy Michael Allen he had driven his sewage truck into the field and gotten stuck in the mud. There was no explanation given as to why he was driving his truck in the field.
Price reportedly stated that several tractors tried to pull him out of the field, but the only way they could get him out was if he dumped his full load of raw sewage. Property owner Matt Elkins stated that he used his backhoe to dig a hole so that Price could dump his sewage.
Price was found to have a revoked driver's license, as well as a forged registration for the septic truck, which was towed away.
A second septic company was called in to pump out the raw sewage at the property owner's expense. That second septic truck didn't get stuck in the mud.
Price was arrested on the driver’s license and registration charges and released on bond Sunday morning.
TDEC spokesperson Kim Schofinski told the Times News on Monday that Price is under investigation for Saturday's dump, but he was charged on March 7 regarding an illicit discharge of sewage in Hawkins County on Feb. 19.
"TDEC was notified by Hawkins County EMA on April 12 of a raw sewage dumping complaint on Spruce Pine Road," Schofinski said. "Our staff visited the site to collect a sample of the waste and coordinate to have another septic pumping company address the discharge. No sewage was observed entering into any surface waters. Our investigation is ongoing, and we cannot comment on any additional potential enforcement action."
On Feb. 19, Price signed a statement admitting to dumping raw sewage at the end of a driveway on property belonging to his former in-laws on W.E. Price Lane off Route 66-N north of Rogersville.
A witness reportedly observed that illegal dump in progress and notified the HCSO, but Price was gone when the HCSO arrived.
A short time later that evening, Price was located at the dump scene by the HCSO spreading lime on the raw sewage.
There have been a rash of raw sewage dumpings in Hawkins County over the past year in areas including the Phipps Bend Industrial Park and the Grassy Creek area of the Beech Creek community. Those cases remain under investigation.