One measure among the dozens Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed last week was a bill that attempted to help Texas communities deal with the illegal dumping of scrap tires.
The bill’s author, State Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso), says his constituents are worried about health hazards caused by a growing number of illegal scrap tire piles.
And they’re not the only ones who are concerned. Residents of Coryell County are worried about the health effects of a tire pile that is large enough to be visible from space.
Kim Jones, a professor and director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, says scrap tire piles are often an unfamiliar sight for drivers, since the piles are typically far from roadways.
“People will discard their tires into ditches and canals and gradually small communities are stuck with collecting these and putting them in some sort of a pile or receptacle,” Jones says. “There are some rare cases of illegal groups who collect these [tires] and stockpile them for a fee.”
Jones says many consumers don’t know what happens to the tires they have replaced with new ones.
“My experience has been quite often responsible communities will chip the tires,” he says. “This costs money… Then they’ll landfill them at that point.”
The number of tires discarded by Texans each year is estimated at 36 million, or 1.5 tires for every Texan. Jones says the consequences of large numbers of discarded tires include the amount of effort and cost required to chip them. Additionally, discarded tires hold water, providing a home for mosquitos and other parasites.
Jones says the goal of Rodriguez’ bill was to improve enforcement of existing state rules against tire-dumping.
“The small communities are the ones that don’t have these landfills or tie chippers,” Jones says. “And I think they’re a little confused about how they can handle this. I think it needs a little more attention.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.