Lawmakers will hear a proposal today to implement a new scrap tire system designed to increase oversight of tire programs that receive grants and to reduce tire dumps across the state.
The new regulation would implement Act 317 of 2017, a 36-page act sponsored by Rep. Lanny Fite, R-Benton, that sought to make tire districts and tire dealers more accountable and transparent in their operations to the state by requiring business plans and electronic manifest systems that track tires.
In public comments, two solid waste districts that have used tire programs and an association representing all of the districts asked that certain requirements be removed or reduced for being unnecessary or costly.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality petitioned its rule-making body, the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission, to start drafting the new regulations in January, the same month the law stipulated the new system had to be implemented.
Since then, the commission passed a six-month emergency rule at the department's request to implement the program without going through the full public notice period.
The department has met with stakeholders, including solid waste districts, on drafting the new regulation, and a handful provided public comments during the formal rule-making process.
The Arkansas Association of Regional Solid Waste Management Districts provided 11 comments on the plan and said the organization was concerned that the department had implemented the tire regulations as an emergency rule before considering any public comments on them.
After receiving public comments, the department made some changes to its proposed regulation, including by making inspections of tire collection centers monthly instead of weekly. But it rejected many as being contrary to the law or what the department believed was necessary to make sure the law was being followed.
The association's comments, signed by President Wendy Bland, requested that tire collection centers not be required to have staff until the districts can factor those costs into their business plans; and that a professional engineer not be needed to sign off on collection center permit applications, a requirement Bland said was the department "over-stepping their authority" beyond what is required by Act 317.
The Benton County Regional Solid Waste Management District, of which Bland is the executive director, and the White River Regional Solid Waste Management District concurred.
The department responded to the comments by saying districts must staff their collection sites to ensure compliance with the state's new tire tracking system and that permits for outside storage of tires would still require a professional engineer's signature "to ensure there is appropriately designed storm water run-on and run-off measures in place."
The White River district added that officials were promised that unmanned collection centers would be allowed and that they are "standard methods of collection" in rural Arkansas that have prevented illegal dumping.
District Executive Director Jan Smith said the district is still trying to work out with the state just how many responsibilities the employee at the collection site would have, which may determine how easily the district can staff them.
"We have a 10-county rural area, and it is very difficult to have manned facilities and find a place to keep them," she said.
The district has a collection trailer in each of its 10 counties and Smith said she hopes they can all stay open. That will depend on how much money the district gets through the state's tire program to pay staff members, Smith said.
Preventive measures such as manning and guarding tire collection sites don't necessarily work, Smith said. An 8-foot fence around one site in Batesville is regularly broken into after it closes at night.
"They will back a truck up to the fence and climb from the bed of the truck into the fenced area to the trailer," the comment reads.
Collection centers generally must be manned and have access controls to guarantee shipments are placed in the manifest system, the department responded.
The White River district also argued that tire sites should not be required to have stormwater permits because tires are designed to be out in the weather and "water touching waste tires is not an environmental hazard."
The department responded by saying that water accumulations in trailers or containers of tires could create "a breeding ground for vector-type diseases."
Tire dumps often attract mosquitoes.
The Regional Recycling and Waste Reduction District in Pulaski County requested that nonprofit corporations in Arkansas whose missions are dedicated to recycling-related programs should be eligible to receive incentive grants.
As written, the regulation would allow incentives to go only to "eligible" used tire programs, local government or state agencies, boards or commissions.
The district argued that "the recruitment of and support by private industry is essential" to the scrap tire program having its greatest possible impact.
The department responded to the district's comment by saying that who could be incentive recipients was already constrained by law but noted that the district may always solicit a contractor for its tire program.
District Director Craig Douglass said this week that he wasn't speaking of any nonprofits in particular. In an ever-changing and less economically feasible recycling climate, Douglass said he thought money going toward, for example, research projects conducted by a nonprofit on marketing for crumb rubber could be helpful.
"We didn't want to preclude funding for any additional research that could be done," he said.
Metro on 07/02/2018