While a state environmental program eliminated millions of used tires in recent years, some two-dozen large tire stockpiles remain scattered across Iowa. Brian Tormey, chief of the Land Quality Bureau of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says they’ve repeatedly asked state legislators to restore funding to the tire abatement program, which ended short of its goal a few years ago.
“We still have some stockpiles out there, roughly 25 to 30 of them with over a thousand tires in each and a total of an estimated 300,000 tires that still need to be addressed,” Tormey says. “These are historical sites. We’re not aware of any new stockpiles that have been created.”
Those stockpiles are a concern as they present several potential hazards, including becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes and rats, or being set on fire. Pollution from tire fires can be very toxic, plus, such fires can be difficult to extinguish. Tormey says the state’s remaining tire stockpiles are only a fraction of what they were a decade and a half ago.
“We cleaned up over ten-million, almost 11-million tires from about 1996 through mid-2005,” Tormey says. “The funding for that program was discontinued.” Tires have been banned from Iowa landfills since 1991. Tormey says some landfills will still accept whole tires, but only to ship them off to be processed.
Other uses are found for virtually all used tires generated in Iowa, Tormey says, from being burned as fuel for factories or power plants to being ground into bits to become playground surfaces or landscaping mulch. He says close tabs are kept on tires across Iowa.
“We have a list of registered waste tire haulers that operate in the state,” Tormey says. “We want to know where the tires are being picked up and where they end up. We have quite an infrastructure, a network out there.” Tormey has been involved in the state’s tire program since 1992.