OLYMPIA, Wash.-Washington's scrap tire program will officially end in October without attaining its goal of ridding the state of abandoned tire dumps. The program's premature demise was to be averted with a bill extending the program's funding mechanism for a few more years. But the state legislature recessed in mid-March without reauthorizing the $1 tax on new tire purchases or approving regulations that would have curbed the creation of additional illegal tire stockpiles.
An estimated 3 million stockpiled tires have been recycled under the 9-year-old program and about 10 million tires remain, state Department of Ecology officials estimated. The biggest pile remaining is the Maak dump in Spokane with an estimated 4 million tires.
But with $6.5 million remaining in the state's cleanup fund, the DOE expects to be able to clear out the Maak dump, said Dale Clark, the state's waste tire coordinator.
The House Rules Committee failed to put the tire tax and accompanying waste tire regulations on the floor for a vote partly due to Initiative 601-a new law that requires all levies to win voter approval.
House leaders did not want to crowd the fall ballot with tax proposals. ``They felt that other taxes were more important, such as taxes to control drug use and violence,'' said Rep. Nancy Rust, D-Seattle, chairwoman of the House Environmental Affairs Committee. She also said leaders were not interested in the scrap tire issue, and it was crowded out by other measures. The legislature reconvenes next January.
Proposed regulations accompanying the tax reauthorization bill would have required licensed waste tire haulers to post identification on their trucks, set penalties for dealers who use unlicensed tire haulers and limited the size of tire piles, among other measures aimed at ``fine-tuning'' current regulations, according to officials.
Richard Nordness, executive director of the Northwest Tire Dealers Association, said Washington tire dealers supported the continuation of the tax as well as the stricter fines.
He said that when the tire tax was instituted, dealers spent as much time explaining to customers the purpose for collecting it as they did actually selling tires. They would probably have to go through that again if the tax is reinstated at a later date.
``If (the tire tax issue) comes back two or three years from now, we may not be as agreeable as we were the first time,'' Mr. Nordness said.
The current tire tax, which generates about $3 million annually, has been used to finance removal and recycling of tire piles across the state.
Mr. Clark said 3.2 million tires have been cleaned up under the program, and a 1.6 million-tire pile cleanup is under way. This cleanup along with the Maak tire pile project will essentially keep the state tire program busy for several years to come, he said. So far, all the tires removed have been used in construction or processed into tire-derived fuel or other products.
As far as the regulations, Mr. Clark said the state sets the minimum standards, but the counties or local subdivisions are responsible for permitting and enforcement, and they can even enact regulations stricter than the state's.
Washington State Tire Dealers Association President Jim Cassatt of Schmidt's OK Tire Stores in Wapato, said the biggest disappointment was the state's failure to impose financial responsibility on scrap tire collectors.
Mr. Nordness said the proposal that licensed haulers put stickers on their vehicles would have made them easier to identify.