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Robert Hatfield operates a recycling terminal on Center Springs Road.
Daily photo by Ronnie Thomas
Robert Hatfield operates a recycling terminal on Center Springs Road.

Hiding In Plain Sight
Hatfield blames neighbors for leakage

By Ronnie Thomas · 340-2438

SOMERVILLE — A month ago, a reader dubbed the lot on Center Springs Road where Robert Hatfield operates a rubber recycling terminal “nasty.”

After the reader complained that Hatfield is leaking something from the business into Town Creek, which trickles along one side of his lot, Hatfield disputed that.

“I have nothing here to leak,” he said. “I don’t even have city water on this property.”

Hatfield shifted the focus to neighbors Richard and Jackie Smith, who live in front of the business at Bluff City Road and Center Springs Road. Hatfield said the person complaining might be confusing the leakage with what he calls the Smiths’ sewage problem.

“Sewage runs down here during wet weather, and I’ve waded in it for the past 14 years,” he said. “During dry weather, it is not running out.”

But Smith’s wife, Jackie, said they have no problem with sewer. She said when they got complaints several years ago, they installed a $5,000 septic system.

“We don’t want to feud with Mr. Hatfield, and it wasn’t us who complained about leakage,” she said.

She said they’re located on a hill, and everything, including rainwater and water from a fire hydrant the city occasionally opens, runs onto Hatfield’s lot.

“He’s on nothing but flat rock and naturally the water drains down there and into the creek,” Smith said. “With sewer coming to town, I guess we wasted our money.”

Mayor Ray Long, who grew up in Somerville, said he and his friends used to play on the Hatfield lot when a gin operated there.

“I would have no idea what the leakage might be,” he said. “There’s just old tires and inner tubes lying around. It appears to me that it’s only rainwater going into the creek.”

Although Hatfield said in a previous story that he doesn’t consider the lot to be junky, he said earlier this week he is “cleaning up the property” as soon as the state lifts the fire ban. He said he is going to burn scrap wood pallets that do not contain chemicals.

Somerville has an ordinance forbidding the accumulation of rubbish, but Hatfield doesn’t think he is in violation.

“I work down here,” he said. “I keep most everything inside of freight trailers, mostly truck tires. When I get full, I take them to Central City, Ky., to sell. I went into this business 20 years ago, and I’ve kept millions of tons out of the landfill by recycling and selling.”

Last week there was a tractor-trailer parked on the lot and six other freight trailers.

“As for cleaning brush back there where the trees are grown up, I can’t touch that because it’s wetlands,” Hatfield said.

“Wild animals are down there and drink out of the spring during dry weather. About three weeks ago, a herd of deer came up. I noticed a little spotted deer had a broken front leg and couldn’t keep up with his mama. I took him to the wildlife refuge. They called me back and told me they put a pin in it.”

Hiding in plain sight

The Smiths’ residence and the recycling business are diagonally across from the old court-house and about 200 yards from the entrance to Somerville Town Hall.

The Smiths have cleaned their property since The Daily featured it Aug. 19 in its “Hiding in plain sight” series.

In that article, Richard Smith referred to Hatfield’s business as “nasty.”

Long said the town hasn’t approached Hatfield about the property.

“We try to give our citizens plenty of time to make the necessary cleanups without getting involved,” Long said. “If this doesn’t work, we take the necessary steps. Most people take it upon themselves to clean their lots once others start complaining.”

In plain sight

Let us know if you’re tired of seeing a dilapidated building, litter, a drainage problem or an eyesore in your neighborhood. Contact Community Development’s weed, junk and litter hot line at 341-4963. You can also contact the Daily newsroom at 340-2433 or

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