A V.I. Port Authority cleanup on the back roads of Crown Bay, St. Thomas, on Monday unearthed at least 100 illegally dumped tires, and while the V.I. Waste Management Authority said that there’s little that can be done if no one actually sees who’s doing the dumping, a newly proposed fee structure could help prevent the dumping from happening again.
Carlton Dowe, VIPA executive director, said Monday that the number of tires in the area – stretching behind the Randolph Harley Power Plant, near the airport – had become "unsightly," and that cleaning crews spent hours during the morning fishing them out from between trees and in bushes. Dowe said local residents and tourists traffic the area and that his agency had been trying to get in contact with V.I. Waste Management to see if anything could be done to discover who was dumping the tires there.
VIWMA said Monday that there’s no way to track who is disposing the tires, but that it is illegal. Since Environmental Protection Agency regulations prevent tires from being dumped at the landfills, they have to be shipped off island for recycling. If someone is seen dumping tires, gets a picture and files a report, or can provide a license tag number, then VIWMA enforcement officers can conduct an investigation and issue a citation.
A first offense for something like illegal tire dumping can result in a fine of $1,000 –but if there’s no evidence, little can be done, according to VIWMA.
Before the tires are dumped illegally, however, V.I. Waste Management does what it can to monitor the tire dealers, who charge a $2 to $4 fee per tire changed and left at their shops.
Enrique Rodriguez, owner of Rodriguez Auto Parts on St. Thomas, said VIWMA audits the tire operations. “They ask us to provide paperwork to show that we have properly disposed of the tires," he said.
"We have to show the bills that are generated by our off-island disposal company and that we have all of our documentation in place," Rodriguez said.
But some dealers and government officials said there could be companies that are not disposing of the tires properly or that customers who chose not to pay the dealer’s fee find a way to dispose of the tires themselves.
To help curb the problem, V.I. Waste Management has been holding a series of town meetings – which began in October – on all three islands to talk with local tire dealers, retailers and the general public about a proposed special waste fee for tires (along with florescent bulbs, appliances, used oil and electronics) entering the territory.
The fee will help with public outreach and will also help the authority to enforce regulations governing the proper disposal of tires, according to officials. On Thursday, V.I. Waste Management will be holding another public meeting on St. Thomas at 6 p.m. at the Windward Passage Hotel and, at that time, officials said they hope to present a final fee structure – which will soon be presented to the Public Services Commission for approval.