OLYMPIA, Wash.-The Washington State Department of Ecology will use the last of its scrap tire tax fund-about $4.2 million-to remove a large scrap tire pile in the town of Winlock and to help clean up an unusual tire-related road fire in the town of Pomeroy. The Ecology Department awarded a $2 million contract to clean up the Winlock tire pile to Waste Recovery Inc., a Dallas-based company that will use a proprietary process to convert an estimated 4 million passenger tire equivalents into tire-derived fuel supplement.
Waste Recovery has cleaned up 10 tire piles for Washington and recently completed a large project in Inwood, W.Va. The company beat out four other bidders for the Winlock contract, the largest such project funded by the Ecology Department.
The firm got the Washington bid not only because of its low per-ton price, but also because of its ability to handle large projects, said Thomas Earnshaw, Waste Recovery CEO and president.
Funding for the Winlock project comes from a $1 per replacement tire tax the state collected from 1989 through 1994. The state thus far has cleaned up some 25 scrap tire piles and paid for the shredding of an estimated 10 million scrap tires, said Randy Martin, environmental planner at the Department of Ecology.
After the Winlock project, the state will have about $2.1 million, representing the last of the funds raised by the tire tax. The money will probably be spent to help clean up a 350-foot stretch of roadway built over scrap tire chips in Pomeroy, a small town in eastern Washington's Garfield County, Mr. Martin said.
County officials used about 9,500 cubic yards of scrap tire material to build the road bed at the state's suggestion. But the material mysteriously ignited in August and has been smoldering ever since.
County officials speculate that a chemical reaction may have accelerated the rusting of exposed steel in the tire chips, generating heat. The Scrap Tire Management Council has stepped up research to pinpoint the cause of the Pomeroy fire and the similar spontaneous combustion of a scrap tire road bed in the town of Illwaco on Washington's southwest Pacific Coast.
The state Department of Transportation estimates it will take $3 million to cleanup the Illwaco fire. There are no estimates yet for the Pomeroy cleanup.
``It's a very tricky cleanup job,'' Mr. Martin said. ``You can dig out the material that hasn't caught fire yet pretty easily, but when you hit the jackpot (burning rubber), then what do you do with it?''
The Pomeroy fire ignited in a semi-arid desert area, while the Illwaco roadway is located near tidal marshlands, Mr. Martin said.
``You've got two extremes,'' he said. ``Until somebody figures out what caused it, the likelihood of this material being used again as a road base is slim to nothing.''