The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has introduced ``Operation Clean Sweep,'' a $3 million program to clean up the commonwealth's estimated 3 million scrap tires remaining in 342 piles.
While Operation Clean Sweep was officially set to begin last November in Richmond and the counties just south of it, cleanup has only just started at the first site under the program, a 300,000-tire dump in Brunswick County, according to a DEQ spokesman.
``It took a while to consider the bids and issue a contract,'' he said. ``But we're comfortable we are reasonably on schedule with this operation.'' The spokesman added he wasn't sure where the next cleanup would commence or when but said that further bids have been issued for contracts to remove the tires and transport them to processing facilities.
The plan for Operation Clean Sweep calls for rolling out the program by region. The commonwealth's four remaining regions-the Tidewater, Northern Virginia, Central Virginia and Southwest Virginia-will be added to the program in order during the year. The DEQ expects to complete the cleanup process during March 2006.
To fund the cleanup, the Virginia General Assembly doubled the scrap tire disposal fee on new retail sales in its 2003 session, from 50 cents to $1 per tire.
The increase will continue until 2006, at which time the fee will revert to 50 cents per tire, the spokesman said.
Virginia has levied the 50-cent fee since 1989. Since 1993, the commonwealth has successfully cleaned up 766 piles containing more than 17 million scrap tires, according to the DEQ.
While the department thinks it has identified all the remaining tire piles in Virginia, there is always the possibility it will find more, the spokesman said. ``Depending on the size and location, they might be able to include new piles within this program, but we'll just have to wait and see,'' he added.