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LAWMAKERS TIRED OF TREADING LIGHTLY ON USED-TIRE PROBLEM

SHARE LAWMAKERS TIRED OF TREADING LIGHTLY ON USED-TIRE PROBLEM

At least once a year some community along the Wasatch Front has a major dump fire, where old tires burn for days, blackening the skies with thick, toxic smoke.

Some Utah legislators are sick of the dump fires and will introduce legislation in January aimed at getting rid of the old tires once and for all.But to pay for the removal and recycling of the tires, a $1 fee will be assessed for each new tire bought by Utahns.

"We're tired of these tire dump fires. They're dangerous and ugly," said Sen. Richard Tempest, R-Salt Lake.

This past spring a tire fire on Salt Lake City's west side burned for several days. The smoke was so thick that a stretch of I-80 had to be closed because motorists couldn't see the roadway.

Several years ago a major tire dump fire burned near Ogden in the Weber County landfill. It took days to put out.

In the past several years there have also been tire fires in Kearns and Spanish Fork as well.

Tire fires are stubborn blazes. Firefighters can pour water on them for days before putting them out. The best method is to bury the burning tires, but when tires are stacked one and two stories high, as they are in some dumps, that's impossible.

Tempest and House members David Ostler, R-Salt Lake, and Joanne Milner, D-Salt Lake, want a multiprong approach.

First, they want a $1 fee on the purchase of each passenger car tire to raise money for local county health departments. A 50-cent fee will be imposed on smaller tires, a $2 fee on the sale of larger tires.

The health departments, in turn, will use the money to pay $20 a ton to anyone who recycles old tires. Some companies may grind up tires and use the rubber in a new product, but Tempest thinks in most cases tires will be shredded and burned in energy-producing businesses. Businesses that recycle tires will not only make a profit from their main enterprise but will also get the recycling fee to encourage their tire disposal.

"We think the health departments are the best agencies to oversee the clean, safe disposal of these tires," said Tempest.

Second, anyone bringing a truckload of tires into the state will have to pay $70 a ton. Tempest says this is to discourage outside tires - someone else's problem - from ending up in Utah.

"We call this charge on tire purchases a fee, not a tax," said Tempest. "We have a clear problem with old tires. We think it's fair to have the people who buy the tires new help with the disposal of them."