MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Memphis cotton gin was shut down on Wednesday for failing to obtain an air quality permit, the Commercial Appeal reported.

Lawrence Smith, with the Shelby County Health Department, said the gin owner has refused to get a permit, likening his continued operation of the plant to driving without a license. The gin processes cotton waste and short fibers so they can be reused. It emits cotton particles and dust into the air, and longterm exposure to those particles can lead to lung disease, Smith said.

Gin owner E.W. Atkinson told the paper that issues around operating permits and missed fees were the result of a miscommunication with the department. He said he would immediately take the necessary steps towards restoring the plant’s ability to operate.

“For the sake of my employees, I’d like to resolve it quickly,” Atkinson said, although he did not know how long it would take.

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