County to get possible remediation of environmental hazard
By LYNETTE SOWELL
An environmental hazard located on almost 40-acre property on F.M. 1783, northwest of Pidcoke may soon see remediation.
For more than a decade, hundreds of thousands of disposed tires have been on the land, formerly owned by a veteran but which reverted back to the General Land Office after the individual defaulted on their loan.
On October 5, there was renewed interest beyond Coryell County to get the matter taken care of, when Coryell County Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Harrell met with Veterans Land Board representative Anthony Vargas, along with representatives from an engineering firm to determine the number of tires at the site.
Harrell said he was pleased to say that it appears there are few tires actually buried, with most being piled up in hills on the property.
The rough count of tires is between 750,000 and 1,000,000, Harrell said.
“A drone will be used this week to check density level of the tires to get a more accurate reading. This information will be discussed at the next Veterans Land Board commission meeting in Austin on October 27.”
At that point, Harrell added, the VLB could award a contract on that date to set the stage for removal and a contractor could be on site by mid November.
“In preparation for removal, I updated the required permit to install a driveway in the state-right-of-way and arranged with Multi County Water to provide a water source for fire mitigation during the removal process,” Harrell said. “Coryell County is ready to get rid of the mosquitoes and used tires business.”
Prior to the ample rains over the past several years in Central Texas, the main concern was the tires being a fire hazard in the county. In fact, during the 2011 drought at least six wildfires came within two miles of that hazard, according to county officials in 2015.
A new concern, Harrell said, is the tires provide a breeding ground for mosquitos in any standing water in or around the tires. It is of particular concern due to illnesses like Zika or West Nile virus, both of which are spread by mosquitos.
The renewed effort to remediate the hazard from the property has been a long time coming.
As far back as 2004, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had received complaints about the tires on the property.
Property owners had permits from TCEQ to operate a non-municipal tire disposal center. But then the businesses closed, the owners allegedly bankrupt.
One 2004 complaint to TCEQ stated that “there are over 750,000 tires in this dump. Agape Waste had a permit to shred tires and were paid $3 per tire for this service. The company went out of business, but continues to accept tires at this site. At this time, Agape is using these tires to build a dam across a creek. Agape has a trash pickup business, bringing the trash to this site and dumping it. The site consists of approximately 13 acres. Stated he had reported this activity to TCEQ and that an inspector had visited the site, but tires and trash are still being accepted. Referred to this office by Glen DeAtley, EPA. He wants a recap.”
The Texas Veterans Land Board, an offshoot of the Texas General Land Office, has owned the property as of 2012.
Concerns back in 2015 were of the potential environmental disaster that could occur, should the tires ever catch fire, with ground contamination from burning rubber impacting bodies of water in the county which flow into Belton Lake.
Also back in 2015, Jim Suydam, a spokesman for the Texas General Land Office, said the GLO was working closely with TCEQ to ensure the state of Texas is a good steward in the appropriate removal of the tires there.
At this time, it is not known how much the cost to remove the 750,000 to 1,000,000 tires will be, but during a March 2015 meeting of the Coryell County commissioners’ court, commissioners heard from a scrap tire service which presented an estimate of the cleanup at that time.
Representatives of Wendeborn Scrap Tire Service, located in Gustine, estimated the property holds about 24,300,000 pounds of tires and said it could take as long as 6.4 years to clean up the site, with a cost at that time to be $227.32 per ton.
Harrell said he plans to attend the October 27 meeting of the Veterans Land Board Commission in Austin.