, Port Arthur, Texas

June 12, 2013

PA to explore tire recycling center

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — In spite of hefty fines imposed on those violating Port Arthur’s used tire ordinance, and a disposal facility dedicated to ridding the city of the unwanted rubber, used tires just keep rolling in.

And, with them, the threat of a health hazard, not to mention an eyesore.

Kerry Thomas, Position 8 city councilman, said he is concerned about the number of scrap tires in the city — especially since Southeast Texas is in the midst of mosquito season.

Thomas, who is employed by the Jefferson County’s Mosquito Control District, said June and July are the main months to contract the West Nile Virus, a potentially fatal illness transmitted to humans largely by the Culex mosquito.

Though less than 1 percent of those infected develop the more serious neuroinvasive disease that was responsible for record-setting 89 deaths in Texas last year, among those most susceptible are the elderly.

The city’s Scrap Tire Facility, at 201 West H.L. Mills, is close to neighborhoods inhabited mainly by elderly residents, Thomas said.

In addition to spraying insecticide, city workers are planning to cover exposed tires stored at the scrap tire facility to decrease the amount of standing water that acts as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, Ross Blackketter, director of public works, said.

State regulations set by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality limit the number of tires allowed at a facility such as Port Arthur’s to 500 on the ground and 2,000 under cover.

Typically, there are  about 450 tires on the ground at Port Arthur’s Scrap Tire Facility, and about another 1,500 inside.

When received, the tires are either split and taken to a landfill, or hauled away by a tire disposal company.

Blackketter said so many tires are coming in that the city has spent $9,000 in a three-month period for Liberty Tire Recyclers to haul them away.

Each load numbers about 750 tires. Six loads, or about 4,500 tires, were hauled away by the recycling company during those three months, Blackketter said.  

Because of the close proximity to elderly residents, Blackketter said the city would look into the possibility of moving the scrap tire facility to another location.

District 5 Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis suggested fthe city to look into building a tire recycling center rather than pay Liberty Tire Recyclers to haul the tires off.

The city, he said, could sell the recycled rubber to companies that manufacture products, or utilize the rubber themselves.

Some products made from reclaimed rubber include rubberized asphalt, floor surfaces, walking trails, athletic turf, mulch and playground surfaces and rubber encased railroad ties, according to National Geographic’s Green Living Web site.

Blackketter estimated it would cost about $250,000 to build a small tire recycling facility and purchased equipment.

In the meantime, Police Chief Mark Blanton explained the difficulty involved in catching people who dump scrap tires into the city.

Blanton said anyone caught bringing scrap tires into the city illegally is subject to a $2,000 fine, the maximum amount allowed by law.

The problem, Blanton said, is that the culprits dump tires in the cover of night — often in vacant lots, or in abandoned buildings.

Very often they are hauled to Port Arthur in the back of a pickup, making it even more difficult for police officers to see.

Port Arthur’s problems with excessive scrap tires is not new. In 2009, the number of tires making their way into the city was so severe that city officials created a Tire Bounty Program. The program paid $1 for every scrap tire brought in. The program was nearly bankrupt within two weeks, with about $40,000 spent on scrap tires.

“I cannot say where they are coming from, but they are growing faster than we can take care of them,” Blackketter said.


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