A bill sponsored by state Sen. Lisa Baker provides new funding to clean up waste tires, such as those seen in this collection in Tunkhannock.times leader file photo
When state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, saw the approximately 1,000 tires dumped into the Susquehanna River near Mehoopany last summer, she was shocked.
And when Baker watched as dozens of volunteers worked in the heat and the muck to pull them out, she came up with an idea.
Baker said witnessing the tire cleanup on the river last summer led her to become the prime sponsor of SB 1050. The legislation reauthorizes the transfer of $15 million from the state’s Recycling Fund into the Used Tire Pile Remediation Restricted Account over a five-year period.
The bill passed the Senate on June 18 with a 46-3 vote. The bill now goes to the state House for approval.
That equals $3 million per year that’s available to municipalities that want to rid their landscape of the unsightly and hazardous piles of discarded tires.
“It shocked me to see that people would dump that amount of tires in a beautiful stretch of the river,” Baker said of the Mehoopany site. “Seeing that hit home. It gave me a greater awareness of the issue and the need to clean it up.”
Previous funding for tire cleanups expired in 2001 despite there being at least 39 piles throughout the Commonwealth with at least 10,000 tires each, some with hundreds of thousands. Baker said her bill will help to finish the cleanup efforts and does not divert funds from county recycling programs.
Waste tire piles have long been a black mark on the landscape of Northeastern Pennsylvania. In 2003, the state spent $248,000 to clean up more than 150,000 waste tires at the Broody Tire lot in Edwardsville. The site had been the scene of a tire fire in the past.
According to the state Department of Environmental Protection list of priority waste tire piles, Luzerne County hosts three sites and Wyoming County has two.
The largest include the Hawk site in Duryea with an estimated 180,000 tires and Coxton Yards, also in Duryea, with 100,000 tires.
The list doesn’t include numerous smaller sites that contain several hundred tires.
“In almost every county you can find a tire pile,” Baker said. “These piles are mosquito breeding grounds that could lead to the spread of West Nile Virus. They are also prone to fires that are very difficult to extinguish and produce toxic air emissions and harmful groundwater runoff.”
DEP spokesman Mark Carmon said the smaller piles have been targeted for cleanup recently because they pose a serious West Nile Virus threat, in addition to the fire hazard.
“Even a couple hundred tires can breed millions of mosquitoes,” Carmon said. “They contain stagnant water and the black tires absorb heat, which warms the water and makes for a perfect mosquito breeding ground.”
Waste tire piles in Luzerne and Wyoming counties on DEP’s priority list:
• Duryea Borough – Coxton Yards, 100,000 tires
• Duryea Borough – Hawk Recycling Services, 180,000 tires
• Lake Township – Lamoreaux, 70,000 tires
• Salem Township – 12,000 tires
• Lemon Township – Martin Harvey, 10,000 tires
• Noxen Township – Simons Auto Parts, 20,000 tires