Dumped tires are rolling back into the Workman and Hooker roads areas near Chattanooga Creek.
Perhaps encouraged by the volunteer help to get them out of the creek last week, dumpers this time may have tried to make it easier on cleanup crews.
Hundreds of tires form several piles along the road — one stands beside the gate into a field and others line a driveway into a private lot. No one’s quite sure when they showed up.
“Unbelievable,” said Elizabeth Tallman-Gazaway, a community organizer in Alton Park. She has been vocal about the problem not being solved even after volunteers spent a sweltering Tuesday pulling about 500 tires out of the creek.
Randy Johnston of Mr. T’s Interstate Tires, who volunteered his truck and some workers to help with the cleanup, also is discouraged.
“It is aggravating,” Johnston said. “But until it’s really policed like it should be, the dumping won’t stop.”
Privately, authorities and volunteers acknowledge they have suspects in mind, but finding proof and pressing charges seem a long way off.
“This is probably the most maddening thing we have to deal with,” said Randy Ridge, a codes enforcement officer for Chattanooga’s Neighborhood Services. “There’s not a camera for every dump site.”
On Friday, Ridge and Jeanette Eigelsbach, program coordinator for the Scenic Cities Beautiful Commission, kicked at the tires standing several deep for 80 to 100 feet along a driveway behind a for-sale sign.
“This is going to cost the property owner thousands of dollars to clean up,” Ridge said. “I’ll have to research who owns the property and write them a letter telling them they have to clean it up. They’ll tell me they didn’t dump the tires — that they’re the victims of a crime. I’ll have to say I can’t help that.”
In recent years, authorities have gotten help from the Tennessee General Assembly to deal with tire dumpers, Eigelsbach said. State law was amended to allow a graduated enforcement system, giving judges some leeway to treat a tire dumper differently from someone who tosses a cup out the window.
The first offense is usually a misdemeanor, but a second-offense conviction for commercial dumping is a felony. The sentence is one to six years in jail and a fine up to $3,000.
• Tennessee law requires each county to provide one temporary waste tire collection site for citizens and tire dealers. Locally, it is at the Hamilton County Transfer Station, 7625 Standifer Gap Road.
• Counties also are encouraged to develop programs to find beneficial reuses for waste tires, and counties that have beneficial use programs also must ban shredded tires from landfills.
• State officials say illegally dumped tires not only mar the landscape, they also cause health and environmental hazards as breeding grounds for mosquitoes and habitat for snakes and rodents.
Source: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
Chattanooga Councilman Peter Murphy said he hopes another deterrent soon can be put in place — the city’s expanding high-speed wireless network. The network has “virtual stakeout” camera surveillance capability, authorities have said.
Cameras would come in handy at favored dumping areas, such as creeks around Alton Park and the wooded slopes of Missionary Ridge, Murphy said
The city also may begin using civil suits to punish further and recoup costs from second offenders charged in City Court, where constitutional law limits code fines to $50.
In the meantime, Murphy said, he and several neighborhood association officials are organizing a citywide tire cleanup for the fall or early winter.
“We’re estimating probably 6,000 dumped tires could be recovered,” Murphy said.
Tennessee environmental officials estimate that 5 million waste tires are generated annually in Tennessee.
But whole tires are banned from landfills, according to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s website. Counties are required to provide one temporary waste-tire collection site for residents and tire dealers. Locally, it is the Hamilton County Transfer Station at 7625 Standifer Gap Road.
Consumers buying new tires at retail stores must pay a $1.35 pre-disposal state fee for each old tire in addition to a retailer-set recycling fee — usually between $1.50 and $4.
The rub comes when tire stores, body shops or junkyards shortcut the process and pocket that money, according to Mr. T’s Johnston, who has a permit to haul waste tires. Instead of taking the tires to the transfer station, such operators just dump them, he said. Some contract haulers do the same, he said.
Although he is disappointed about the creek area, Johnston said he won’t stop helping with cleanups.
“I tend to think cleanups help. These guys have to think if they continue to do this, people will get tired and make authorities start cracking down.”
Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...