For the past several years, waste tire dumps have gained national attention
because of large tire fires at sites in Virginia, Colorado, Washington,
Wisconsin and Minnesota. While tire fires are the most widely publicized
danger of tire dumps, other problems do exist, such as disease-carrying
mosquitoes that breed in tires.
RISKS AND DANGERS
As more states enact waste tire legislation prohibiting the burial of
tires in landfills, waste tire dumps will probably grow until tire management
systems can be developed to properly manage, store and process waste tires.
Pennsylvania is already falling steps to deal with the fire dumps issue.
What is Pennsylvania Doing?
Since 1980, Pennsylvania has had a solid waste management act to provide
for the management and regulation of waste, including remedies, penalties
and the establishment of a fund. Since 1988, Pennsylvania has had a policy
that limits the sizes of interim tire stockpiles, sets requirements for
adequate fire lanes and recommendations on reducing the risks posed by
disease-carrying mosquitoes. Waste tires are a regulated waste and require
a DEP permit.
The Waste Tire Recycling Act (Act 190), signed by Governor Tom Ridge
on December 19, 1996 provides for grant programs, tax credits, and enforcement/penalty
provisions to reduce the waste tires that are stockpiled and generated
annually in Pennsylvania.
The Waste Tire Recycling Act provides for:
a prohibition against the improper disposal of waste tires in landfills.
the establishment of the Waste Tire Pile Remediation Grants, which will
provide up to $1,000,000 annually for five years for the purpose of remediating
tire piles across Pennsylvania.
an equipment and infrastructure investment tax credit for Pennsylvania
businesses and individuals who utilize waste tires.
Every year tire fires occur across the nation at small, unregulated tire
dumps. Since 1971, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated
that at least 176 tire fires have occurred in the United States. Some tire
fires are produced by accidental causes and some are set by owners who
are eventually subject to large fines or penalties for setting fire to
their tire dumps.
Putting Out a Tire Fire
Waste tires and waste tire stockpiles are difficult to ignite. But once
on fire, tires burn very hot and are very difficult to extinguish. In addition,
the doughnut-shaped tire casings allow air drafts to stoke the fire.
Using water to extinguish a tire fire is often a futile effort, because
an adequate water supply is usually unavailable. Also, water sprayed on
burning tires cools them down, producing an oily run-off which can contaminate
nearby surface and groundwater.
Using fire-retarding foams is another possible method to extinguish a tire
fire. Concentrated foams are mixed with water and sprayed through a hose.
But foams can contribute to the run-off problem and are generally expensive
to use due to the large amount needed to put out a tire fire.
Dirt and Sand
Smothering a tire fire with dirt or sand is perhaps the best current option
for extinguishing tire fires. The sand or dirt is moved in with heavy equipment
to cover the burning tires. This technique does not contribute as greatly
to the oil run-off problem and is generally faster and cheaper than foams
Smothering a tire fire is the method supported by EPA and has been used
numerous times throughout the United States. Smothering was the method
used by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to extinguish a 30,000-tire
fire in Andover, Minnesota, in February 1989. Smothering was also used
at a one-million-tire fire in Denver in 1987.
Allowed to Burn
Sometimes tire fires are allowed to burn when they occur in isolated areas
away from surface water or population centers. However, a large tire fire
can smolder for several weeks or even months, sometimes with dramatic effects
on the surrounding environment. In 1983, a 7-million-tire fire in Virginia
burned for almost nine months, polluting nearby water sources. The heat
from tire fires causes some of the rubber to break down into an oily material.
Prolonged burning increases the likelihood of surface and groundwater pollution
by the oily material.
Scrap Tire Storage
To reduce the risk of a tire fire, the DEP requires the owners of waste
tire storage facilities to obtain a general permit and comply with the
management practices. The management practices are those specified in the
general permit No. WMGR038.
Along with their potential as fire hazards, tire stockpiles also provide
an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Because tires partially fill with water regardless of their position
and absorb sunlight, they provide an ideal environment for hatched larvae.
Although tire dumps are sometimes associated with rodents, the primary
problem has been with various species of disease-carrying mosquitoes that
like to breed in tires. In fact, \ pipiens is commonly referred to as the
"tire pile mosquito."
Of the many species of mosquitoes that currently breed in Pennsylvania,
at least two varieties are important carriers of disease. These mosquitoes,
Aedes triseriatus and Culex pipiens, transmit two strains of encephalitis:
LaCrosse encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis. Recently, a third mosquito
is cause for concern.
Asian Tiger Mosquito
This mosquito was introduced to the United States from Asia through shipments
of waste tires into Houston, Texas, in 1985. Since then, the mosquito has
been transported throughout the United States via waste tire shipments.
The mosquito has been found as far north as Chicago, Illinois.
The infestation of the Asian Tiger mosquito is considered serious because
of its ability to transmit several diseases. It is nicknamed for its aggressiveness
when biting humans.
What Does the Law Say?
Section 6018.201 of the Solid Waste Management Act states: "No person or
municipality shall store, collect, transport, process, or dispose of municipal
waste within this Commonwealth unless ... authorized by the rules and regulations
of the Department and no person or municipality shall own or operate a
municipal waste processing or disposal facility unless such person or municipality
has first obtained a permit ..."
The Solid Waste Management Act provides that storage of a waste in excess
of one year constitutes disposal.
Section 6018.501 of the Solid Waste Management Act provides that use or
continued use of one's land or another's land as a waste processing, storage,
treatment, or disposal area without a permit is unlawful.
Section 6018.601 of the Solid Waste Management Act states: "Any violation
... of this act ... or regulation of the Department ... shall constitute
a public nuisance."
Other sections of the Solid Waste Management Act provide authority for
the department to issue orders to enforce the act and to issue civil penalty
assessments for violations of the act.
The Residual Waste Management regulations passed July 4, 1992, under Section
287.2(c)(3) provide that waste tires shall be handled as a residual waste
regardless of whether the waste is municipal or residual waste. Under 287.101
management of waste tires requires a permit. Under 287.601-666 beneficial
use of a residual waste requires a permit. If the use of the waste is to
be a substitute for a commercially available product it may not present
a greater harm or threat of harm than the use of the product which the
waste is replacing.
Recycling Alternatives Available for Waste Tires
Power Utility Industry
New Tire Manufacture Applications
Department of Environmental Protection
Bureau of Land Recycling and Waste Management
PO Box 8472
Harrisburg PA 17105-8472
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