COOLIDGE, Ariz.—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is cracking down on the owners of a tire pile that burned in 1997 in an industrial park on the Gila River Indian Reservation two miles north of Coolidge. The agency issued an order effective March 19 that will require the two companies that stored the tires and the seven Arizona counties where the tires originated to remove the 1 million unburned tires within 30 days.
They also must clean up the remnants of 2 million tires that burned for several months in 1997 and continue to smolder, said Paula Bruin, spokeswoman for the EPA's regional office in San Francisco.
The pile dates to 1994 when the contractor began collecting tires for recycling from the Arizona counties of Cochise, Coconino, Maricopa, Mohave, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma, Ms. Bruin said.
After the contractor went bankrupt, the Gila River Indian community attempted to have the counties remove the tires.
EPA Waste Division Director Julie Anderson issued the order to get the counties to sign a consent agreement that finally will get work under way to get the tires off the property, Ms. Bruin said.
"A consent agreement will supersede the order, and then they can make arrangements to get this work done," Ms. Bruin said.
Formal negotiations between the EPA, the Indian community and the counties broke down Feb. 6, prompting the order, she said.
The EPA entered the case after a fire broke out in the pile Aug. 1, 1997, at a time of intense heat and high winds. The poor air quality downwind from the fire prompted officials to declare a state of emergency and evacuate more than 300 people.
The contractor had stored the tires in 26 piles on the 10-acre site.
The fire broke out after the firm went bankrupt and disappeared, Ms. Bruin said.