DA, TDEC file injunction against Roto Rooter owner over alleged Johnson City sewage dumping

Becky Campbell • Oct 17, 2013 at 4:44 PM

A Johnson City drain cleaning business has not been licensed to collect residential waste since it’s state permit expired nearly two years ago, but continued to operate and dump sewage illegally.

State officials filed an injunction against Julian Robert Combs and his business, Roto-Rooter Sewer Drain Service, located on Fairview Avenue, asking a judge to order him from operating.

First Judicial District Attorney General Tony Clark and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation filed the injunction in Washington County Chancery Court this week. The lawsuit claims that despite a cease and desist order, Combs’ business has continued to engage in “underpermitted pumping and disposal of sewage.”

In July, two of Combs’ employees, Charles Jones and Joseph Hiatt, were charged with dumping raw sewage at 922 Embreeville Road in Johnson City next to Brush Creek. Clark said the criminal action against the pair is ongoing.

The injunction filed in Chancery Court refers to Combs’ actions as “causing harm to the public health and the environment.”

According to the filing, Roto-Rooter was instructed to stop collecting and dumping waste until the business obtained a valid permit. Regardless of that, when officials checked dumping records at the waste water treatment plant at Brush Creek, they found the company has continued to dispose of waste at that facility.

The state received a letter from Combs’ father, Bob Lee Combs, in August that read, in part, “on renewing my pumping permit, I have had to be off work a lot lately. This is no excuse but as far as dumping illegally, I would never do anything like that. My family that runs this business depend on this income and would like to continue to pump in our counties.”

The state received an application for the permit, but it was incomplete and no permit has been issued.

Clark asked anyone with knowledge of illegal dumping to contact TDEC or his office for investigation.

“I am dedicated to enforcing laws that protect our environment and our streams” Clark said in a news release. “It is our privilege to have clean water and a clean environment. As citizens we cannot continue to let such actions occur.”

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