The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has signed a Louisiana company to a $5 million contract to clean up more than 30 million tires at a notorious site in northwest Texas.
Merrick Construction Co. of Cottonport, La., has agreed to haul away at least 60 percent of the tires on the 150-acre Gibson tire site near Atlanta, a Texas town near the Arkansas and Louisiana borders.
Merrick Construction actually plans to take away more than 60 percent of the whole, shredded and crumbed tires.
It has already earmarked much of the material on the site for tire-derived fuel, particularly for paper mills, according to company President Max Merrick. The company also hopes to sell a portion of the shredded tires for erosion control projects.
``The (Army) Corps of Engineers is having trouble with some levees along the Mississippi River that need a lightweight fill,'' Mr. Merrick said. ``We hope to meet with them in the next few days.'' Mr. Merrick also hopes to sell some of the rubber as leachate material for landfills, while the steel-free chips from the Gibson site can be used for playground surfacing, he said.
What Merrick Construction doesn't take away, it will mix 50-50 with soil to lay at the Gibson site as a land reclamation project, as ordered by the TCEQ.
``We hope to make it a much more pleasant, rolling piece of ground,'' Mr. Merrick said.
The TCEQ and Atlanta city officials-alarmed at the Gibson site's potential as a fire hazard and breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes-have been trying to get it cleaned up since 2000 at least, when former owner Bud Gibson declared bankruptcy and abandoned the site.
Mr. Gibson started the pile in 1991, hoping to cash in on Texas' new scrap tire abatement law. His hopes were dashed in 1997, however, when the Texas legislature repealed the program and the state's $2 scrap tire disposal fee on each new tire.
By the time he abandoned the site, Mr. Gibson had shredded at least 90 percent of the tires, which were piled as high as 25 feet on the property.
At least nine small fires have broken out on the site in the past three years, either because of lightning or oxidation of tire wire, according to the TCEQ.
Incorporated in 1973, Merrick Construction specializes in highway, bridge and erosion control projects.
Since 1995 it has operated a scrap tire processing plant that to date has shredded some 15 million tires, according to Mr. Merrick.
About 80 percent of those tires have gone as TDF to International Paper Corp., which has several facilities around Louisiana, he said.