Pennsylvania completes clean up of a record six million waste tires

The remnants of what was once the largest waste tire pile in the state of Pennsylvania were removed from the Greenwood Township, Columbia County, farm where they had threatened the public health and environment for two decades.

“After 21 years, this significant environmental threat to the residents of Greenwood Township has finally been eliminated,” said Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Northcentral regional director Robert Yowell. “The 6 million tires that could once be found here posed a fire threat and raised concerns about environmental quality and public health.”

The final load of waste tires were shredded and removed by Entech Inc., which received a $447,000 contract from DEP in June to process and remove the 300,000 tires that remained on the property of Max and Martha Starr.

According to Yowell, ensuring that the waste tires were used for other purposes was an important consideration for the department as it worked to clean up the pile. “These tires could have simply been sent to a landfill, but we realized they were a resource for which there was a demand,” said Yowell. “Of the tires that remained after those responsible for discarding them here removed their share, many found a second life as components of asphalt or parking bumpers, or as a fuel supplement or playground surface. This project illustrates how we can take environmental challenges and create economic opportunities.”

In 1987, the commonwealth issued an administrative order requiring the Starrs to stop accepting tires and provide an estimate of the number of tires at the site. After subsequent orders and appeals by the owners, the Starrs and DEP finalized terms of a legal agreement in March 2004 to clean up the tires that accumulated on the property on three separate parcels.

Aside from a $400,000 civil penalty for failing to remove waste tires from their property, the Starrs also had to relinquish operational control of the piles to DEP, but maintain liability insurance. Now that all the tires have been removed, the Starrs must sell the parcels and give the proceeds to DEP.

Five companies and Penn State University received state grants during the past four years to remove tires from the property. The department also took legal action against 20 generators who brought tires to the Starr property. The action requested that the generators remove their proportionate share of the tires or pay a civil penalty if they did not do so in a timely fashion.