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I-Team: 'Tire mountains' still left behind

The state declared those stockpile sites cleaned up years ago, but now there are new questions about that clean up, and the I-Team discovered millions of tires left behind. (WGME)

PORTLAND (WGME) – You probably don't think much about your tires until you have a flat or need to buy new ones, but all those old tires have to go somewhere.

Millions of them used to pile up in dozens of so-called "tire mountains" scattered around the state.

The state declared those stockpile sites cleaned up years ago, but now there are new questions about that clean up, and the I-Team discovered millions of tires left behind.

Larry Baker lives right next to what was one of the biggest tire dumps in the state in Nobleboro. Old pictures and archive video show what it looked like back in 1995, after a tire processing facility shutdown.

A year after the site was abandoned, the state decided to clean it up.

Paula Clarke with the Department of Environmental Protection designed the "scrap tire" abatement program back in the mid-90s.

“The very large stockpiles were growing in size and we really didn't have an effective means of dealing with that,” Clarke said.

According to the final DEP report, by 1998, the state declared the site "completely remediated," with 1.4 million tires removed.

“We consider this to be a very successful program,” Clarke said.

The state spent more than $12 million to "remediate" 27 massive stockpile sites, and more than 14 million tires, littering the Maine landscape.

In a detailed progress report sent to the governor and legislature, and obtained by the I-Team, there were 1.7 million tires piled up at the Nobleboro site. Remember, according to that final report, only 1.4 million tires were removed.

“There's 300,000 tires still here,” Baker said. “They just covered it with dirt and left.”

Now the past appears to be poking through, we found tires all through the woods, and pieces of tires showing through the soil. We brought our questions about the cleanup to the DEP.

Clarke says they determined the cover and stabilization of the site are still in pretty good shape.

“That material shouldn't be there, but I don't think it's indicative of a failed remedial project,” Clarke said.

We also found, by comparing the two DEP reports, it appears more than 6 million tires were left behind at a stockpile in Bowdoin.

Clarke says as long as most of the tires stay buried, there's no environmental threat.

Still, people who live near the old sites, like Larry Baker, would like all the tires hauled away.

“It's quite discouraging,” Baker said. “They assumed it was cleaned up; it doesn't affect them; they don't really care.”

The DEP says there are no plans to do any more work at any of those old tire stockpile sites.

There are now tougher laws and enforcement when it comes to old tires.

Most of them are sent to tire recycling facilities and used to make fuel, and for road and drainage projects.

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