Waste tires expected to pile high - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Waste tires expected to pile high

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Over 4,000 used truck and bus tires tower over two stories high just behind the Triple J Commercial Tire Facility in Tamuning. This is just one of dozens of sites that are likely to appear throughout the island in the coming months, even years.

"On Guam it is a tremendous concern because we see it on the side of the roads. We see businesses that would not normally stock pile used tires on their lots stock piling them because there is no longer an international market for used tires," said Guam EPA administrator Eric Palacios. But it's not just Guam, as he says our neighbors in the CNMI, American Samoa, and the rest of Micronesia are faced with the same problem due to our remote location.

According to president of T.A. Enterprises Inc. Thomas Hertslet, who's been in the tire business for 35 years, in the past tires were baled, stuffed in a container, and shipped to Vietnam then China. This stopped last year for larger tires and earlier this year for smaller tires. This was a result of the changing market for tire-derived commodities, such as shredded or chipped tires that are used in rubberized asphalt and fuel for power generation.

"We need to get rid of those things but there's no other way and on top of it we are in violation with concerns of EPA having those tires on our facility," he said. "But EPA is very generous in regards to not penalizing us because they recognize the fact that there's no way to get rid of it. We might need a large piece of secure land we can interim wise store the tires and once the proper equipment is on island it can be shipped off."

Palacios says the trash is not just an eyesore, but poses environmental and public health issues, noting, "Mosquitoes like standing water in tires that's perfect breeding ground for them. Rats as well."

With no one in the business of shredding tires locally, it's a problem Palacios says will only pile higher. "There are a couple of entities that have expressed interest in making that investment and I'm hoping that in the next six months that one of them does come to fruition," he said.

Unfortunately, Hertslet says this solution is not economically ideal for Guam, as the machinery would cost millions. "We are not creating enough waste tires. For us it might look huge. 150,000 waste tires a year but its peanuts," he explained.

Meanwhile, Hertslet says facilities like Triple J spray the mountain of used tires with anti-mosquito solution weekly, what he says is only a temporary fix.

And while Palacios works with Public Health and Guam Fire Department as well as explores tapping onto the Recycling Revolving Fund, he encourages residents to dispose of their tires by contacting their mayors office as well as report illegal dumping. 

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