October 24, 2014

A "tire"ing issue

122 junk tires pulled out of state forests, 19 illegal dumping sites listed in Arenac County

TIm Barnum
A dump truck and trailer were needed to haul away illegally dumped tires from just two spots in Moffatt Township.
By Tim Barnum|Staff writer
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MOFFATT TOWNSHIP — Last week, 122 tires, more than 30 cars' worth, that were illegally thrown out in Arenac County state forests were removed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

All 122 removed tires were in just two Moffatt Township locations.

“Ninety of them (tires) were down in a creek bottom,” said DNR Forest Fires Officer in Arenac County Douglas Bates, adding the remaining illegally dumped tires were behind a trailer park in Moffatt Township. “You expect to go out and enjoy nature and you see 90 tires.

“The state has to pay $2 apiece for those tires to be disposed of,” he added. “And it’s not just tires (that are being dumped in state forests).”

According to Bates the illegal dumping is the reason several two-track roads throughout the state are closed to vehicles. He also says that the tires, when disposed of correctly by the state, are usually used for bases in septic and leech fields, or ground up and burnt in waste energy plants.

Brian Burke, an Environmental Quality Analysts with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), says when the tires are burnt by the state, the pollution that results from burning the rubber is greatly reduced from equipment such as scrubbers, afterburners and electro static precipitators, as opposed to when people burn the tires themselves.

“If you just burned it (tire) in your backyard, it doesn’t have any of that air pollution control equipment,” Burke said. “Whatever chemicals it happens to give off, they’ll just go into the air.

“That’s the difference between doing it legally and illegally.”

However, Moffatt Township isn’t the only place in Arenac County where state forests are being treated disrespectfully.

“Right now, there’s 19 known spots in Arenac County where there’s illegal trash dumps,” said DNR Volunteer Program Coordinator Ada Takacs, adding 1,086 sites have been recognized statewide. “We’ve got everything from a couple of trash bags (in some spots) to dump truck loads.”

Takacs says a program she coordinates, Adopt-a-Forest, however, aims to organize communities to clean up the illegal dumps. She says in an Adopt-a-Forest campaign, volunteers usually go about cleaning a forest in one of two ways.

“Some groups like to say ‘This is my adopted forest and I’m going to clean it up every year,’ or they can look at our database and go to a different site every year,” Takacs said, adding that usually the DNR pitches in, but that the department’s help isn’t a necessity. “If they are not going to need our help at all … they can do that.

“We did one (Adopt-a-Forest) on Grove Road last year.”

As for illegal tire dumps, Takacs says Adopt-a-Forest is very experienced in dealing with the issue.

“Our program, since its inception, has collected over 70,000 tires,” she said, adding often, when large collections of tires are found, such as the 90 retrieved from the Moffatt Township creek, the tires are usually dumped by people posing as legitimate tire and waste haulers who get paid to dispose of the tires, and then thrown out on state land. “We (DNR) have made a lot of pinches throughout the state by fly-by-night haulers.”

Bates says most of the time DNR officers cannot apprehend the people littering state forests with tires and other trash, since they must be caught in the act, but says people can call 800-292-7800 or the Arenac County Sheriff’s Department at 989-846-3002 if illegal dumpers are spotted.

To organize an Adopt-a-Forest effort, contact Takacs at 989-275-5151 or visit cleanforests.org.

See all 19 illegal dumping sites in the June 10 issue of the Arenac County Independent.

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