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Illegal Dumping Still Outstrips Cleanup Efforts

Aug. 15,2007 — Even as the V.I. Waste Management Authority focuses time, money and energy on removing tires from the bush and roadsides, their efforts continue to be outstripped by illegal dumping.
This coming weekend, the WMA plans to send crews of temporary workers around St. Croix to known, accessible, illegal tire dumping areas and picking up white goods such as old washing machines. The following weekend the WMA will hit St. Thomas and St. John.
Some 40 workers have been hired and a number of dumping sites identified and mapped out. WMA Executive Director May Adams-Cornwall says there will be drop-off points, most likely at each of St. Croix’s four main dump collection sites where residents can drop off up to four tires per person at no charge.
But like Sisyphus eternally rolling his rock uphill, these efforts will likely be washed away by a flood of new, illegally dumped tires. And many tires on the ground now are not on the cleanup agenda because getting to them is too difficult.
Danny Coughlin, who grew up on St. Croix and has been here since the early 1970s, recently called the Source and the WMA about a tire, car and oil dump he found off the Scenic Road.
“While scouting for a hiking trail I discovered this tire and oil dump and old vehicle,” Coughlin said. “For the amount of tires dumped, and the way they are all piled together make it look like a dump truck just pulled up and dropped a single, big load of tires down the hill. And the five-gallon oil buckets — to me that looks suspicious, like a good-sized garage took all their waste up there. That’s speculation of course, and I can’t say for sure.”
Coughlin said there were numerous small dump sites, but this one was much larger than the others.
But even though the WMA knows about this illegal dump site, it won’t be cleaned up this weekend and probably not anytime soon. Adams-Cornwall said because the dump is well down a steep ravine, the tires will have to be dragged out by hand, one at a time, through the bush and up the ravine. She said her limited resources will be more effectively used clearing up a much larger number of tires from easier to access sites right now. It will be mapped and put on the cleanup list, but will not be addressed until there are resources to do so.
Tire dumping has been a chronic problem for a number of years now, especially on the big island. (See WMA Still Wrestling With Tire Disposal Issue and V.I. Officials, Tire Vendors Address Discarded Tire Problem.) Aside from being an eyesore and expensive to clean up, they provide a breeding place for mosquitoes and contribute to outbreaks of potentially deadly dengue fever. (See Residents Told Only a Change in Human Behavior Will Stop Dengue.)
Coughlin said the number of tires being dumped in the bush increased dramatically after a per-tire disposal fee was introduced. Adams-Cornwall said tires used to be buried in the Anguilla landfill like other trash, but the Environmental Protection Agency banned tires out of concern they would provide fuel for fires. There has been an underground fire at the Anguilla landfill for a number of years. Rather than pay a fee, many individuals choose to dump their tires into the bush. Some garages and tire shops are dumping the tires illegally even after charging a disposal fee to their customers as well.
Both Coughlin and Adams-Cornwall believe legislation to require people to turn in tires when they purchase new ones would help.
In the past, Adams-Cornwall has said the job of preventing illegal dumping would be easier if the Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ enforcement officers had tire sellers show paperwork indicating where their used tires went. Once tires belong to the consumer, it's difficult to force residents to turn them in.
As soon as the Public Services Commission approves the WMA’s fee schedule — presumably at their next meeting — all tires sold in the territory will have a disposal fee built into the sale price. This fee will eliminate the financial advantages of illegal dumping and hopefully as a result the practice will become less common.
If you see someone dumping illegally, you can call the WMA enforcement office at (340) 712-4956 during normal business hours, or by calling the 24-hour WMA hotline at (340) 713-1962. For information on what to do with tires, call the landfill at 778-1231. There is an amnesty for up to four tires per person this weekend on St. Croix and next weekend on St. Thomas.
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