Michigan Attorney General Says Hazardous Tire Dump Poses Grave Environmental Risk

The Michigan Department of the Attorney General and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) filed a civil lawsuit against Joseph Heritier doing business as Heritier Drainage, a scrap tire processor located near Twining, in Arenac County, which operates a tire dump containing approximately 140,000 tires.

Heritier Drainage stores scrap passenger car and truck tires on about two acres, and processes the tires by shredding them into chips for use as fuel by energy companies. The accumulation of so many tires is a violation of the operational requirements under state law for tire collection and processing sites.

Scrap tires, if not properly stored, can present a considerable fire hazard. Scrap tire fires frequently take days to put out and produce highly toxic oil that contaminates the environment. Scrap tires may also hold rainwater that allows mosquitoes to rapidly breed and spread, which can carry diseases such as the West Nile Virus and the Equine Encephalitis Virus. State law requires that tires be managed to limit the potential of mosquito breeding.

"This facility is both an environmental risk and a public health concern," said Attorney General Mike Cox. "This suit demonstrates my commitment, along with the DEQ, to enforce Michigan's hazardous waste regulations and environmental laws in order to keep families safe."

Scrap tire processors are required under state law to register each year with the DEQ and post a bond of a sufficient amount that will allow the DEQ to remove scrap tires to abate state law violations, e.g., for the costs of fire suppression and emergencies and cleanup at the site and follow operational and storage requirements.

"The DEQ believes strongly in protecting the citizens of Michigan and Arenac County from public health and environmental hazards," DEQ Director Steven Chester said. "It is imperative that scrap tire piles are managed in compliance with state law to avoid preventable health risks and environmental contamination."

The complaint filed in the 23rd Circuit Court alleges that Heritier Drainage has violated Part 169; Scrap Tires, and Part 115; Solid Waste Management of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. A hearing is set for June 20 regarding the attorney general's motion for preliminary injunction.

The complaint also alleges that Heritier Drainage is not registered as a scrap tire collection site nor has posted the required bond to store scrap tires at the site as required by state law. Heritier Drainage violated a cease-and-desist order not to accept scrap tires issued by the DEQ in December 2002, because of noncompliance with these operational requirements.

This lawsuit asks the court to order Heritier Drainage to comply with Michigan's scrap tire law by removing or processing scrap tires to reduce tire pile sizes, providing fencing and a berm for fire protection, and providing the necessary bond and controls to reduce the potential for mosquito breeding. The complaint also asks for the court to assess civil fines and to order Heritier Drainage to reimburse the state for the staff costs that the DEQ has incurred during its enforcement efforts.

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