HARRISBURG, Pa.—Pennsylvania should see fewer tire piles in 2001 after the state Department of Environmental Protection approved $2.3 million in grants to clean up dumps across the commonwealth.
"For years, piles of tires have been an eyesore and an environmental problem for many Pennsylvanians," DEP Secretary James M. Seif said in a written release. "This money will help improve the environment as well as the quality of life for thousands of people."
The money will go toward 20 sites in 15 counties across Pennsylvania, the DEP said, with tire piles ranging in size from 10,000 tires in Clearfield County to 740,741 tires in Perry County. The largest grant was $400,000 for a partial cleanup of the Perry County site.
In total, the current round of grants will pay for the cleanup of about 1.9 million tires at an average cost of $1.32 per tire, the DEP said.
Pennsylvania began its scrap tire remediation in earnest in 1996 when Gov. Tom Ridge signed the Waste Tire Recycling Act. The measure provided an annual grant of $1 million for five years for scrap tire cleanup from the state budget as well as the potential for $2 million more if approved as a line item by the state legislature.
The $1 million grant goes directly to businesses that are involved in scrap tire cleanup for piles of 10,000 tires or more. The line item approved by the legislature goes to municipalities that apply to clean up local tire piles of 5,000 tires or more, the DEP said.
The act also established a permit system for scrap tire recyclers and disposal sites and provided an equipment and infrastructure investment tax credit for Pennsylvania businesses that use waste tires, the DEP said. The legislation also created penalties for the improper disposal of scrap tires.
No special tax or duty was imposed on the sale of new tires to pay for scrap tire disposal, according to a DEP spokesman.
The Pennsylvania DEP estimates the state creates about 12 million scrap tires annually and that at the advent of the Waste Tire Recycling Act about 36 million tires sat in piles across the state, according to the spokesman.
Since the signing of the act, Pennsylvania has made significant progress toward cleaning up its scrap tires, he said.
"We've cleaned up more than 20 million tires since 1996, and that's roughly half of them," he said.
Scrap tires that have been generated since the signing of the act are being disposed of properly, the spokesman said. Pennsylvania has an established system of businesses that use scrap tires for tire-derived fuel or grind them for crumb rubber used in civil engineering and other projects, he said.
Although the spokesman could not say how stable the markets for scrap tires in Pennsylvania are, the DEP Web site lists 26 businesses that use whole, crumb or chipped tires, ranging from cement companies to energy providers. The total listed annual capacity of the businesses is more than 104.7 million tires, and none of the sites are operating at full capacity.
In light of the Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. tire recall, the Pennsylvania DEP has notified its inspectors to be on the lookout for illegal dumping of tires, but has not received any reports of violations, the DEP said.