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Tire pile catches fire again

ATHALIA – An Athalia tire dump sparked renewed concern for county leaders Monday, after Rome Township firefighters battled a Saturday night blaze there.

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

ATHALIA – An Athalia tire dump sparked renewed concern for county leaders Monday, after Rome Township firefighters battled a Saturday night blaze there. The fire also drew further attention from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which is continuing its years-long enforcement action against the landowner.

The old tires piled beside Ohio 7 are simply a health hazard, county commission president Paul Herrell said.

"I don’t know why people want to set them on fire," Herrell said. "The cleanup’s got to be finished because of the danger of the smoke and the danger of mosquitoes."

Removal of tires began in April 1999, funded by a supplemental environmental project grant, when the site contained an estimated 400,000 to 450,000 tires, said Clint Shuff of the Ohio EPA.

Earlier this year, the tires had been reduced into three smaller piles.

In May, landowner Brian Fancher agreed to comply with court orders to remove tires from the site – at least four tons per month. On June 7 he received a notice of violation from the Ohio EPA, which initially sought the court orders, Shuff said.

Fancher recently submitted receipts showing the removal of more than seven tons of waste from the site, and is working with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office on compliance issues, Shuff said.

"The Rome fire department continues to put fires out, but it is certainly taxing on their equipment and the village budget," he said, adding that the tire pile also remains a health hazard.

"Our enforcement action is ongoing."

State officials have spent about $16,000 on cleanup efforts at the site so far, and the county is currently waiting on $40,000 in grant funding for the pile’s final cleanup. Commissioners and the Lawrence-Scioto Joint Solid Waste Management District applied two months ago for that money from a special Ohio EPA grant fund.

The fund totals only about $70,000, so it’s hard to predict whether or not the state will let Lawrence have the lion’s share, said Doug Cade of the CAO, who’s overseeing the grant for the waste district.

"But it’s a very high priority for the state," he said.

Herrell called Ohio’s funding of the $40,000 grant very important, because the tire pile remains a danger and it’s a situation that the county can’t likely handle on its own.

With the slowdown in the local economy, the county has already had to cut its budget this year. It would be difficult to come up with all the extra funding required for a tire pile cleanup, Herrell said.

"It’s sprayed (for mosquitoes), but it’s still a hazard," he said. "We hope the grant comes through."

Sunday’s blaze was the fourth that Rome Township Volunteer Fire Department has had to fight at the site – and the second one this year.

Mike Boster, the department’s public information officer, said the cause of the fire is unknown but was labeled suspicious and is currently under investigation.

Boster said about 500 to 1,000 tires were destroyed in the blaze. He said no one was injured as a result of the fire but some of the fire department’s equipment suffered damage.

Complaints about the tire pile first came to the EPA in 1995.

Ohio EPA’s initial court action against former landowner Dave Jackson resulted in an eight-year prison term sentence for Jackson.

Fancher has said plans are in the works to reclaim the land and turn it into a business property.

Staff writer Jeremy Schneider contributed to this story.