EPA Orders Mecca Calif. Tire Recycling Facility to Immediately Reduce Fire Risk

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is ordering Consolidated Tire Recyclers Inc., which operates a tire recycling facility in Mecca, Calif., to remove excess stockpiled tires and improve fire prevention or face fines of up to $7,500 per day.

Located within the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians Reservation, the tire recycling facility primarily sells crumb rubber as fuel to a power generation plant.  

“A large tire fire could pose a serious public health threat for the citizens of Mecca,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “To protect the local community, including children attending nearby schools, EPA and the tribe have taken steps to eliminate the risk of fire. As a start, EPA has ordered the facility to stop accepting any additional tires.”

The EPA’s order supports the tribe’s action of May 26, 2011, when it issued Consolidated Tire Recyclers a notice of violation and order to comply requiring the facility to better manage the tires at its facility.  On Thursday, June 2, Blumenfeld will be meeting with tribal leaders and touring the site.

“This combined enforcement action is a demonstration of several elements: the multi-layered, multi-agency regulation that tenants on tribal lands are exposed to, the commitment to maintaining required levels of business operation and safety, and the level of cooperation between Cabazon and the EPA,” said Tribal Chairman David Roosevelt.

The unilateral order, issued under the authority of the federal Resource Conservation & Recovery Act, follows a 2011 facility visit in which EPA, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the tribe found an estimated 90,000 tires to be an imminent fire risk. On May 17, 2011, a fire broke out in a building at the facility; no one was hurt, and the fire was contained to a shredded tire piping system.

The EPA administrative order against Consolidated Tire Recyclers sets forth immediate measures and a schedule to reduce the risk of fire, including:

•        Cease receiving waste tires;
•        Properly store tires, including reducing the size of its current piles;
•        Remove its waste tires currently stored at a site located across the street;
•        Remove all flammable materials, including wooden pallets, from tire pile areas; and
•        Upgrade the fire suppression system.

Tire fires can result in toxic air pollution and in oily runoff that can contaminate the surrounding environment. Tire fires produce thick smoke that contain pollutants harmful to human health including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, styrene, phenols, and butadiene. Tire fires also threaten nearby water supplies with harmful contaminants such as lead and arsenic contained in the oily runoff.

In a separate action at a nearby facility, on May 9, 2011 EPA issued an order against Western Environmental Inc. following a spate of odor complaints and a public meeting in Mecca where EPA officials heard directly from community members about the odors’ impacts on their health. Western Environmental’s facility handles solid, semi-solid, and liquid waste, including petroleum-contaminated soil and biosolids from sewage treatment plants.

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