The tires sit at the station, less than 200 yards from the school buildings, not more than a football field distant from the edge of the school's property on Mon Bijou Road.
According to acting Health Commissioner Julia Sheen, discarded tires can hold stagnant water, which makes them prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes, in turn, can transmit Dengue Fever, a virus transmitted by the female Aedes aegypti mosquito which breeds in man-made containers such as old tires, plant containers, empty drums and even pet dishes near homes and businesses anywhere water can collect.
In a statement released earlier this week by the Department of Health, epidemiologist Dr. Eugene Tull said children are at especially high risk for the disease, symptoms of which include severe headache, joint and muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, high fever and loss of appetite, in uncomplicated cases. Complicated cases of Dengue Fever can result in Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever, which is characterized by high fever, bleeding and circulatory failure and in rare instances, can result in death.
The tires at the Mon Bijou Road trash station were dumped illegally, and are only part of the problem. Throughout the territory, used tires accumulate at any place people drop trash, especially at the trash transfer stations.
The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority does not accept used tires at the landfills and has no program in place for recycling them. That leaves people who have used tires to dispose of only two options — take them to a local tire dealer who will charge a fee to dispose of them, usually about $5 a tire, or dump them somewhere illegally, even though in so doing they are courting a healthy fine and potentially creating a health risk.
In December, VIWMA issued a request for proposal looking for someone to remove all the illegally dumped tires from the territory. According to Stella Saunders of the agency, the proposals are due April 15. The agency will then evaluate the proposals, select one and negotiate before work begins, probably in three or four months, she said.
Saunders did not have an estimate of what the tire removal is likely to cost.
In the meantime, the WMA has sprayed the tires on its properties throughout the territory to keep down mosquito populations, she said.
For those storing tires on their property, the Department of Health recommends drilling holes in the sidewalls to allow water to run out, and to keep an eye on them to make sure water isn't accumulating inside them, creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
In the U.S., almost one tire is discarded each year for every man, woman and child in the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Car tires are a particularly troublesome item for disposal. The very thing that makes them desirable as tires — their durability — makes them hard to get rid of. But it also makes the materials in them desirable for second uses.
Their hard rubber and belting made of steel or fiberglass mean they were built to last a long time. They can be ground up or shredded, with the rubber used in basketball courts and in other filler uses. A variety of processes have been developed to break tires down into their constituent parts, but they require intense heat or lots of energy.
According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, tires buried in a landfill tend to be buoyant because they are 75 percent void – on other words the actual body of the tire makes up only a quarter of the space the tire occupies. Under pressure from methane and other gases generated by decomposing landfill trash, tires tend to "bubble up" to the surface.
The transfer stations are only for household trash, Saunders said, and people should not use them for disposing of appliances, yard debris or tires, among other things.
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