Old Tires Still Raising Health And Safety Concerns

Thousands upon thousands of old tires, all shapes and sizes, cover the industrial property. Some of the stacks can be seen from nearby Highway 49.

"Originally, he was allowed to have "X" number of tires on the site. And in certain areas, it's gone way beyond that," said fire chief Pat Sullivan, as he surveyed the site.

The chief sees a real potential for serious health and safety issues amid the piles of discarded rubber.

"There's no question we've got the fire issue. If I have a fire in these tires, I've got a major, major problem."

Hurricane Katrina damaged the recycling center's building and tire shredding equipment. But even before the storm, that equipment sometimes failed.

"And they had several times that it broke down. And so the tires piled up. And then when the storm came, the building, the facility itself was damaged. And there were some code violation issues. Safety issues. And we had to stop his operation from that point."

"Well, the tires are going to have to be cleaned up eventually," said Earl Brown, who owns the center.

Even the owner of the now shuttered business says the tires are a big problem. But Earl Brown says he's at a standoff with the city, which shut down his plant and won't allow him to crank up the operation to shred the remaining tires.

"They want us to move the tires. They don't want us to grind up the tires here. Gulfport Tire doesn't have the money to move the tires. We can make arrangements to grind them up and move them out. They won't let us do that," said Brown.

It seems these tire troubles are growing from bad to worse. We talked off camera with the caretaker of an adjoining property who told us he's witnessed truck loads of tires being illegally dumped there.

The tires represent more than a fire hazard or eyesore.

"We have a breeding ground for West Nile.  Until we get these tires and this standing water out of here, we've got a problem," said Chief Sulliivan.

The issue is headed to municipal court. There's a hearing set for February 28th.