Fine Print: Getting a Handle on New Jersey’s Tire Dumps

Tom Johnson | November 29, 2016 | Energy & Environment
Despite existing law, tire piles continue to proliferate, potentially damaging the environment and offering a breeding ground to mosquitoes

scrap tire pile
What is going on: A recent state audit found authorities need to beef up monitoring of illegal scrap-tire dumps around the state after inspectors discovered about a dozen new tire piles, despite a 12-year-old law aimed at managing their safe disposal. It is estimated that more than 8 million scrap tires are generated each year in New Jersey.

Why it poses a safety problem: Scrap-tire piles pose an environmental and health threat for a number of reasons, including potential contamination of groundwater and providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes, a source of West Nile virus. If tire dumps catch fire, they can be difficult to extinguish and can create air pollution problems.

What has been done to prevent problems: In 2004, a law was enacted to manage disposal of scrap tires by imposing a $1.50 surcharge per tire on new ones. The money is supposed to be used to ensure scrap tires are safely disposed, but in recent years, the fund has been diverted to help pay for snow removal efforts by the state Department of Transportation.

What the state says is being done: Conceding that illegal scrap tires are re-emerging as an issue, the state Department of Environmental Protection noted the vast majority of tires are safely disposed of or sent to an appropriate end-use market. The agency assigned a case manager to deal with the new tire dumps, and inspectors have been told to step up their efforts to keep tabs on existing sites and identify new illegal tire piles.

What the Legislature is doing: Bills have been introduced to set up a more expansive system of tracking, recycling, and disposing of scrap tires, including one (S-2422) that passed the state Senate last week. That bill, which now heads to the Assembly, would require all scrap tires to be recycled or reused and prohibit their being used as solid waste.

*How much would the new program cost? According to a fiscal estimate prepared by the Office of Legislative Services, the cost of implementing a new tracking and recycling system would be minimal. The projected $200,000 cost would come out of the existing tire management and cleanup fund, OLS said.

What are the bill’s prospects? Uncertain. The Christie administration has typically refrained from imposing new regulatory requirements on the business community, and this bill would require a new manifest system to oversee management of scrap tires.