COLUMBUS — State environmental officials are seeking to recoup at least $23 million spent cleaning up illegally discarded tires from dumps around Ohio, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Illegally dumped tires are breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects and fuel for dirty, hard-to-extinguish fires. Cases involving dump owners who fail to pay for cleanups have been sent to Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann for review, The Columbus Dispatch said.
Since 1998, Ohio has spent $27 million removing more than 41 million scrap tires, recovering very little of the cost from the owners of dump sites, the newspaper reported.
One local example: Jack Vasi, son of former County Commissioner Mary Jo Vasi, and his sister, Mary Kay Szabo, operated a tire dump in Carlisle Township that the state paid to clean up. Vasi and Szabo are still on probation for their inaction.
It’s a problem many states wrestle with, said Chris Newman, who coordinates a scrap tire cleanup program for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“They’re not rich people,” Newman said of dump owners.
Polluters often claim bankruptcy, allowing them to avoid reimbursing the state, said Bob Large, who supervises the state EPA’s program. In some cases, the state places a lien on their property.
Ohio’s tire removal program is funded by a $1 fee on all new tires sold in the state. The program, which began in 1998, raises about $7 million a year.
About 4 million illegally dumped tires remain in Ohio, Large said. In many cases, recycled tires are turned into landfill liners, mud flaps, rubberized mulch and radiator hoses.
Ignoring the problem isn’t an option, Large said.
In 1999, a fire involving 4 million scrap tires at Ohio’s largest stockpile, Kirby Tire Recycling in Wyandot County, burned for six days.