Illegal tire dumping: a problem without a solution

By David Schick

Paul Martin didn’t see the hidden closing costs when he purchased the property where the old Omni Club sits. A quick survey of the ends of his property would reveal an illegal tire dump close to Briarcliff creek. What he soon realized is that the cost of disposing tires properly is exorbitant and often falls on the property owner.

Scrap tire disposal isn’t just an Athens-Clarke County problem.

In the early 1990s, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources created a Scrap Tire Program designed to clean up and recycle about 12 million tires that were housed in illegal stockpiles around Georgia. The landfilling of whole-sized tires has been banned since Dec. 31, 1994.

Tires behind The Omni March 2 2014 011 Tires behind The OmniTires behind The Omni March 2 2014 005

Funding for the program comes from a one-dollar fee that is charged to the retail sale of all new tires, with no exemptions.

How does ACC stop people from illegally dumping tires?

John Mincemoyer, an administrative secretary at the ACC landfill said that people “dumbing tires illegally on people’s property” is a big problem without an answer right now. And there’s little, if any enforcement.

“We’re on an honor system,” said Mincemoyer. “But people are dishonest and they lie.” He adds that he’s seen it all, even people trying to hide whole tires in trash bags to dump.

ACC Community Protection Division Administrator, John Spagna, said, “It is somewhat hard to enforce because you’ve got to prove it.”

When people dump tires illegally on someone’s property, and no one knows who did it, it becomes the responsibility of the proper owner to clean up the mess up, Spagna said.

When Martin discovered the illegal tire dump on his newly acquired property, he was told to clean it up by ACC. He said he’s already hauled away more than 80 tires. And the cost of disposing tires at the ACC landfill is: $3 per standard passenger or light truck tire, $10 per commercial truck tire, $15 per ton bicycle tires and tubes ($5 minimum).

When the scrap tires are recycled properly, about 62% of them are sold as tire derived fuel to paper mills, about 25% are sold to building contractors for use in sewage system drainage fields, and about 13% are sold as feedstock to out-of-state producers of crumb rubber.

Right now, Martin is “trying to find out” if the rest of the illegally dump tires are on his property.

“We understand that [cleaning up tires] could be on the property owner,” Spagna said. “The other side of the argument is … you need to be in control of the property.”

When big tire shop companies like Kauffman Tires, Tires’ Plus, and other top-level businesses have a load of scrap tires, they’ll hire a company—with the retail fee—to transport the scrap tires.

“It’s kind of like a middle man they’re paying to take the tires,” Spagna said. But “mom and pop stores” will often pay a “less reputable” scrap tire removal service and those haulers will end up dumping on both public and private property. Spagna adds that they get a lot more dumping on public properties than private.

It’s on the citizens to report the illegal tire dumping when they see it and ACC will first issue a warning to the property owner to clean it up. “If you don’t clean the property after we’ve asked you, then you get a citation,” said Spagna. They regulate the citations through an ACC “unlawful dumping” ordinance, rather than rely on the much broader state regulations.

After receiving a citation, the property owner has to appear in court. Depending on the amount of tires that needs to be removed, the court can impose a fine of up to $1,000. More often than not, Spagna says, that the court will just instruct the property owner to clean up the tires.

If someone is caught red handed, in the act of dumping tires, and the police become involved, they will call the ACC Community Protection Division and they will issue an “immediate citation.”

But most people dumping tires illegally, use the cover of night and it’s rare that the police get involved. “Tires don’t really have markers to know who physically dumped them,” said Spagna. “A lot of times, we come in after the fact.”

Spagna said that they do try and work with property owners by teaching them how to block off their property at the weak points so vehicles can’t get back there.

“But at the end of the day, somebody has to be held responsible,” Spagna said.

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