March 15, 2005
Bolivar, Mo. — A blazing illegal tire dump containing as many as 1.2 million tires in Polk County is a perfect illustration as to why the Missouri General Assembly should renew a lapsed fee that helped clean up such sites, Attorney General Jay Nixon said today.
Nixon today visited the site and received a briefing from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials working on-site. Firefighters from 19 area fire departments battled the blaze for two days before determining that letting it burn out on its own was the only alternative.
Speaking from the edge of the abandoned quarry where the dump is located, Nixon said such potential environmental hazards could be cleaned up if the funding to do so was restored.
"Toxic fumes, chemicals seeping into the ground — these tire dump fires can pose a tremendous hazard to our health and safety," Nixon said, as clouds of thick, black smoke rolled into the Ozark sky. "When the waste tire disposal fee was in place, we made tremendous headway in cleaning up these dumps. I think this fire is a perfect illustration as to why the fee needs to be renewed."
Implemented in 1990, the waste tire fee helped the state properly dispose of an estimated 12 million tires. Approximately 5 million waste tires are generated in Missouri each year; state environmental officials estimate there are about 2.8 million tires in illegal dumps around the state.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources, which administered the waste tire clean-up program, lost funding to clean up tire dumps when the legislature failed to renew the state's 50-cent fee on new tire purchases last year. A bill pending before the General Assembly, House Bill 192, sponsored by Rep. Therese Sander of Moberly, would reinstate the fee.
"We can be thankful that this incident hasn't resulted in any injuries or loss of life, but we might not be as fortunate next time," Nixon said. "But just the same, the damage to the environment here may be beyond measure. I want to encourage the House and Senate to move quickly so we can prevent future episodes where the health and safety of Missourians is put in jeopardy."
Editors: Larger images are available.