State Rep Says South Side Tire Dump Would Burn For Nine Months If It Caught Fire

click to enlarge State Rep. John Lujan says he once helped extinguish a tire fire at the abandoned Safe Tire Disposal site - google maps, screenshot
google maps, screenshot
State Rep. John Lujan says he once helped extinguish a tire fire at the abandoned Safe Tire Disposal site
This week State Rep. John Lujan told state environmental regulators that illegal tire dumping in his south side district has become a public health nightmare and a raging tire fire waiting to happen, urging state action on the matter.

In his letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Tuesday, the San Antonio Republican targeted one tract of south side land that he calls particularly hazardous – the unfortunately-named Safe Tire Disposal site, land that state regulators for years have been trying to scrub and clear of millions of discarded tires.

Lujan says in his letter that earlier this month he toured the tire facility, which was abandoned in 2005, and concluded that with “more than two million illegally discarded scrap tires, this site presents a major health hazard and fire hazard.” The state lawmaker says the tires collect water after each rainfall, turning the site into a “notorious breeding ground for mosquitoes" that, given the site’s proximity to residential neighborhoods, is of particular concern “given the dangers of the Zika virus.”

As for the fire hazard the site poses, Lujan says he actually extinguished a brush fire at the Safe Tire dump years ago when he was a San Antonio firefighter. “It does not surprise me at all to learn that the Fire Marshall estimates that a fire could burn up to nine months at this site,” Lujan wrote in his letter to state regulators. “To remain silent and not take action would be inexcusable on my part.”

According to TCEQ, a company called Eclipse Renewables LLC currently owns site at 11150 Applewhite Road, where whole and scrap tires have been collected and piled into mounds. In an email Wednesday, agency spokesman Brian McGovern told the Current that investigators who visited the site last year discovered serious problems and “noted that the site was overgrown and contained standing water and mosquitoes.” McGovern says the agency slapped Eclipse with a notice of enforcement last August for failing to clean the site. McGovern says TCEQ has also referred Eclipse to the Attorney General's office seeking civil penalties and a court order forcing the company to remove the tires.

According to McGovern, regulators have also referred the company that has in the past contracted with the state to scrub the site, Trident Environmental Resource Consulting, to the AG’s office for possible civil penalties and a court injunction, claiming the company hasn’t lived up to its agreement with state environmental regulators.

As for Lujan’s letter, McGovern told us “the agency will be responding to him directly.” 

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously identified Lujan as a Democrat.