As two tire fires smoldered in Missouri, the state's General Assembly considered three bills designed to reinstate the 50-cent scrap tire abatement fee that lapsed at the beginning of 2004.
Only one of those bills has been voted out of committee, and the legislature is set to adjourn May 13, according to an official with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Meanwhile, the state still has $1.7 million remaining in its scrap tire fund to fight the current fires and fund other cleanup projects, she said.
A fire in an abandoned quarry in Polk County, Mo., near the town of Bolivar, began March 11 and involves what the MoDNR estimates as 750,000 tires, according to Beth Marsala, an enforcement section chief with the agency's Solid Waste Management Program. Local sources, however, estimate the number of tires at 1 million or more, she said.
Environmental Protection Agency officials are trying to move the tires to the west side of the quarry, according to Marsala, who headed the MoDNR's scrap tire program until it was dismantled last year. "They're trying to get the tires to burn faster and harder to limit runoff and other environmental damage," she said. "Then they plan to cover them with rocks and smother the fire that way as a temporary fix."
The fire in a 20,000-tire dump in western Ray County, Mo., started March 14, and the local fire department is allowing it to burn itself out because the terrain at the site makes extinguishing the fire unusually difficult, Marsala said.
Some 3,000 to 10,000 of the tires at the Polk County quarry were untouched by the fire, Marsala said. Some of the tires in Ray County also were untouched, she added, though she wasn't sure how many.
Instituted in 1990, the 50-cent fee on every new tire sold in Missouri funded the cleanup of more than 12 million tires in the state, according to MoDNR estimates. It also reimbursed non-profit organizations for their cleanup efforts and gave communities 259 grants worth $1.3 million to purchase recycled rubber surfacing for playgrounds.
In its 2004 session, the General Assembly considered 10 different bills to reinstate the fee, but the furthest advanced of them fell victim to an eleventh-hour filibuster just before the legislature adjourned May 14.
Of the three current bills, the furthest advanced is one before the Missouri House of Representatives. It would extend the 50-cent fee until Jan. 1, 2008, and give preference in tire cleanup contract bids to Missouri-based companies.
Two other, somewhat differing, bills before the Missouri Senate would extend the fee until Jan. 1, 2010. One of those bills would allow for the continuance of the fee at 25 cents per new tire sold after that date.