Hugh G. Willett, Special to the News Sentinel
|Fore Note: Apparently it isn't legal
for a county to offer a reward for arrest and convection. That said, as
a private citizen, I will be more than happy to give $100 toward the
$1,000 reward. I would challenge my fellow commissioners as private
citizens to also consider the same commitment.
Loudon County targets illegal tire dumping
Problem plagues counties across the state
The illegal dumping of hundreds of used tires along Loudon County roads this week is an extreme example of a problem that has plagued counties across the state almost as long as vehicles have been on the roads.
Sometimes it's 40 to 50 tires in one place or even as many as a hundred at a time, said Chris Parks, director of the Loudon County Convenience Center. The 400 tires dumped in three separate areas this week is the largest such incident on record, he said.
The county pays the landfill $1.35 for each tire dumped. In 2015 the county picked up over 200 tires and paid about $2,000 in disposal costs, not counting labor and transportation.
Parks said it took one deputy and four workers from the county road supervisor's office almost a full day to load and transport the tires from this latest incident.
County Mayor Buddy Bradshaw said he wants to see the responsible individual or individuals charged with a felony.
"I told county commission that this is ridiculous," he said.
Although commission voted on Monday to offer a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible, Bradshaw said he has since been advised by the county attorney that state law prohibits offering the reward.
The Loudon County Sheriff's Office is investigating this week's incident. The fine for illegal dumping is $500. Sheriff Tim Guider said he has discussed with the District Attorney's office the possibility of enhanced charges.
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokesperson Eric Ward said TDEC enforces illegal tire disposal, which is prevalent across the state. The agency has a criminal investigator who investigates and prosecutes the illegal disposal of tires.
"We also provide grant funding assistance to local governments for the cleanup of legacy illegal tire disposal sites pre-July 1, 2014 that have been identified and prioritized by our environmental field offices across the state. After that time, county governments were tasked with cleaning up the new tire sites. We encourage property owners and residents to take pictures and collect proof if they see someone illegally dumping in Tennessee," Ward said.
State Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Loudon, runs a family tire dealership with locations in Loudon, Monroe, Knox and Blount counties. He said he was angry — not just as a resident of Loudon County — but as someone in the tire business.
"I'm frustrated beyond belief. It sheds a bad light on our industry," he said.
Matlock said he has been dealing with the proper disposal of used tires since long before he joined the Legislature.
"It's always been a challenge figuring out what we do with this material," he said.
Tire dealers are required to keep records of how many tires they sell and are only allowed to dispose of the same number, he said. Tire dealers pay tipping fees at the dump in addition to the per-tire fee, he said. Private individuals are allowed to send only four used tires to the dump at one time.
The efforts to address the problem in Tennessee have resulted in reclaiming 3 million used tires in the past 24 years, Matlock said. He also said he would like to see more competition in the disposal business, which would lower the cost of legal disposal and reduce the incentive to dump illegally.
Counties receive $1 per tire sold in the county from the Department of Revenue to assist the management of tires for beneficial end use per the Solid Waste Management Act of 1991, Ward said.
As recently as last year Matlock was involved in passing new legislation to fund disposal and recycling of old tires. In 2015 the Tennessee Automotive Association partnered with TDEC and the General Assembly to establish the Tire Environmental Act Program.
At the time of the first retail sale in Tennessee of a new motor vehicle that is to be titled and registered in Tennessee, a flat fee based on the number of the vehicle's wheels is assessed. The purpose of the fee is to fund projects creating or supporting beneficial end use for waste tires.
The fee will provide Tennessee with an estimated $1.2 million the first year to be paid to qualified applicants as grants. The program selects and funds projects that result in beneficial end uses for waste tires including recycling and creating products from used tires.
Matlock said that until about 15 years ago used tires were taken to state prisons to be ground into mulch or powder. The material is used as filler in sports fields and on roads, he said. TVA at one time burned the rubber to create energy but ceased due to concerns about the air pollution. The current low cost of oil reduces incentives to recycle rubber, he said.
Most of the tires picked up in Tennessee are taken to a facility near Nashville run by Liberty Tire Recycling.
According to the Pittsburg, PA-based company's website, Liberty has remediated more than 150 dump sites littered with nearly 40 million scrap tires during the past seven years.