Ohio EPA Tires are loaded into a shredding machine at the Kirby tire dump in May. State environmental officials say the cleanup of the Sycamore, Ohio, dump will be finished this year, eight years ahead of schedule. But millions in fines remain uncollected. About 19 million tires have been removed so far.
SYCAMORE, Ohio - The cleanup of millions of tires from a former dump in Wyandot County will be completed eight years ahead of schedule, but payment of the nearly $52 million in court-ordered restitution may never happen.
Approximately 19 million tires have been removed so far, and the remaining tires from Kirby Tire Recycling on State Rt. 231 near Sycamore will be removed by the end of the year, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday.
The fire was set on Aug. 21, 1999, and was declared to be out five days - and 5 million burned tires - later.
The EPA had estimated cleanup of the 120-acre site would take 15 years.
But yesterday, Ohio EPA Director Joe Koncelik, leading reporters on a tour, said the final work should be wrapped up by the end of the year.
Environmental Quality Management Inc. of Cincinnati began work on a $3.26 million contract in June to remove the burned tires. The whole tires have been removed and recycled in some fashion, leaving 5 million burned and buried ones as the final project, said Dina Pierce, spokesman for the agency.
In July, 2002, four Ohio defendants pleaded guilty in Wyandot County Common Pleas Court and were ordered to pay a total $11.9 million restitution to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Scott Harer, now 27, of Bloomville, was convicted of attempted aggravated arson, sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison, and ordered to pay $3.9 million in restitution. He was granted early release a year ago and ordered to pay a minimum of $20 a week toward his restitution, according to court records.
Brent Young, 26, of Columbus, was convicted of attempted aggravated arson, ordered to pay $3.9 million in restitution, and set up on the $20-a-week repayment plan when he was granted early release last year from his 5 1/2 year-sentence.
The same charge, conviction, restitution, and payment schedule were given to Michael Schindewolf, 26, of Ostrander.
A fourth defendant, Kenneth Stacklin, 28, of Bucyrus, was convicted of aggravated arson on March 25, 2003, and ordered to serve 29 months in prison. There was no court record showing a payment plan for Stacklin.
Ms. Pierce said a $40 million lien has been placed on the property, owned or operated by Doris P. Kirby and Donald and Rebecca Williams, seeking restitution and fines.
Last year, Judge Kathleen Aubry imposed $40 million in fines and restitution on the dump's operators. Judge Aubry acknowledged the Williams and Mrs. Williams' mother, Doris Kirby, probably don't have millions of dollars in assets. But the judge said she hoped the penalty would persuade others not to allow disposal sites to grow out of control as Kirby Tire Recycling did. Ms. Pierce said it may be a long time, if ever, before the state sees its money.
In 2001, the state doubled its 50-cent fee for tire disposal, pouring more money into a fund that paid for the site's cleanup.
The EPA says from July, 1999, through May, 2006, contractors removed 18,820,186 scrap tires, plus 38,727 tons of solid waste that was mixed with the tires.
All that remains are more than 5 million tires that burned at the unlicensed facility. Most of them were buried under soil used to smother the fire.
Regulations prohibit large-scale storage of scrap tires, although new uses for old tires is another factor in their removal.
"Today there is a market for used tires," Ms. Pierce said.
She cited ground tires used as a sort of mulch around playgrounds, as a substitute for gravel in roads and as a base under landfills, and in the manufacture of items such as doormats.
Cleaner tires can be burned in cement kilns because of their higher temperatures, she said.
The Ohio EPA has spent more than $13 million to remove the tires and more than $6 million to treat water contaminated when it contacted the tires buried in the fire. After the cleanup, the EPA will continue monitoring the groundwater there for a year before releasing the property from its oversight.