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Lawmakers consider state subsidy to keep old tires out of forests, rivers and streams

There are five rivers running through Tom Garrett’s legislative district including the James which flows past his house, and he likes nothing better than to spend days on the water. Unfortunately, he says, the experience is spoiled by what he sees on the river’s bed.

“I can put a canoe in at Hatton Ferry and float down to the family property a few miles away and go over 200 waste tires,” he says.

Delegate Tom Garrett says Virginia has as many used tires as it has people.
Delegate Tom Garrett says Virginia has as many used tires as it has people.

Garrett claims Virginia is one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to tire pollution, in part because people who need cash raid large piles of used tires behind businesses that sell new ones.

“People will go to these waste tire dumps under the cover of darkness with a pickup truck. They’ll put all the tires in the back of the truck, and then they’ll sell the resurface usable and the usable now for $10 apiece, and that leaves two-thirds of the tires which almost always end up in the woods, in the river, in the creek."

Garreett adds that those tires could be leaching toxic chemicals into public waters.

“The James River is the source of drinking water for probably a million people downstream.”

House Bill 496 would add a $2 charge to each new tire sold, creating a fund that could only be used for research on new uses for old tires and to subsidize businesses that transport them to be resurfaced or recycled. Garrett says Virginia used to have money earmarked for that purpose, but it was used for other things.

“I could blame Governor McAuliffe, but the reality is Governor Youngkin is doing it too.," he says. "Once the hand is in the cookie jar, it seldom comes out until the jar is empty.”

The bill would also require that tire sellers track the numbers going in and out.

“If you’re putting on 500 tires, and you’re shipping out 200 tires, we know you’re a bad actor.”

Tire sellers object, claiming the bill would place an undue burden on them.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief