HEFLIN, ALA. (Aug. 21, 2000) — Hundreds of thousands of old tires are dotting a part of the eastern Alabama landscape, and three government agencies are uncertain which group has jurisdiction.
At first glance, the site in rural Cleburne County would seem to qualify as an illegal dump, like many others in Alabama. The site´s owner, Pat Williamson, operates a recycling business in Austell, Ga., according to Cleburne County Commissioner Don Roberts.
Mr. Williamson plans to dam a creek on the property and has thousands of tires stockpiled to accomplish the task, Mr. Roberts said.
Mr. Williamson has at least 210,000 tires at the site, said Clark Bruner, of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, in Montgomery.
"I´ve seen that number, but it could be more than 300,000," Mr. Roberts said. "It doesn´t look good. We´ve had complaints about them."
Normally the state or county might order Mr. Williamson to return the tires to his Georgia business. But he appears to be operating within the law, since he had received a permit for the project from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in January, said Tim Dugan, a corps spokesman.
Apparently, the permit is keeping the state from acting on the tires, Mr. Bruner said.
"(Mr. Williamson) has received permission to construct the dam," Mr. Bruner said. "Right now, I´m unsure of the status. I understand he´s trying to compact the tires to dam up the area."
Last year the state expressed concern about fire risks as well as mosquito problems with the tires, Mr. Bruner said.
Although the permit seems to have calmed the state´s concern, the Army Corps said the state has the final word. "The state is the final authority on environmental issues," Mr. Dugan said.
So far, Mr. Williamson appears intent to construct the dam, Mr. Roberts said. "I got a letter from him, and he said that he has until June of next year to complete the project."
The Cleburne County Commission initially gave permission for the project two years ago. But the number of tires coming onto the property subsequently became a concern, Mr. Roberts said. "We told him then not to bring in any more tires. There´s no telling how many tires would be there now if we had not done that."
Mr. Roberts said that so far he hasn´t seen much progress.
"There´s some tires that have dirt on them, but not many," he said. "We need to have all of them covered."
Mr. Williamson could not be reached for comment.