California is well known for its majestic Sierra Nevada, but the Golden State is also home to the far-less scenic Tire Mountains, pictured here. Alamosa County officials are exploring the possibility of hosting a tire disposal day in order to reduce admittedly less-severe blight in the county’s unincorporated areas.
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress
Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — Groan or slap your forehead if you must, but you have to admit that Alamosa County Commissioner Darius Allen is on to something when he calls blight a “tire-some” problem.
Abandoned tires are not only unsightly. They’re potentially flammable environmental hazards, and they serve as breeding grounds for everything from mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus to rodents that transmit other diseases.
As county officials work to clean up unincorporated areas beyond Alamosa’s city limits, they’re finding that old tires are to blame for a significant amount of blighted conditions on private property.
Illegal dumping is also an ongoing problem along public rights of way, according to Allen.
Just this week, for instance, he spotted a freshly abandoned set of tires down the road from his house, he said during the commission’s meeting on Wednesday.
In order to address the issue, Alamosa County Land Use Manager Juan Altamirano is broaching the idea of holding a county-sponsored tire disposal day.
However, before the county can move forward with the proposal, commissioners have several possibilities to consider.
If they do go forward with the idea, Allen said the drop-off should be held at a fenced and guarded location, which would allow county officials to keep track of everything that came in.
Likewise, he suggested that officials might not want to set disposal fees so low that county residents would completely overwhelm them with tires.
On the other hand, Commissioner Michael Yohn said potential fees shouldn’t be so high that people would be discouraged from turning their old tires in.
Tire dealerships already dispose of old and unwanted tires for minimal fees, yet many people choose to haul them off and then dump them out in the countryside.
Yohn suggested a free disposal day could succeed, but Altamirano said fees would help the county recoup any money it spent on the project. Any leftover proceeds could be donated to a local food bank, he said.
Altamirano isn’t concerned that the county would be competing with private enterprise, since a local contractor is interested in working with officials on the proposal.
The “tire-some” problem that Alamosa County is facing tends to be more common in rural areas where services are limited. But the country as a whole has taken great strides in recent years to address the issue, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Every year, Americans generate roughly 290 million scrap tires, and up until the very recent past, most of that perfectly recyclable waste ended up in landfills.
In 1990, there was very little demand for the waste product, yet less than 15 years later, more than three out of four scrap tires were recycled or reused, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
Today, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment offers numerous incentives to promote tire recycling or reuse of illegally dumped tires and plain-old waste tires.
During the 2013 fiscal year, for instance, the Moffat Consolidated School District received a $45,000 grant to install a new playground surface made from an estimated 5,111 tires.
Counties and local municipalities are also eligible for grant funding to initiate their own tire cleanup programs, and Allen suggested that officials should see if they can access any of that money through the public health department.