TDEC takes steps to remove tires in Butler

By Jennifer Lassiter
star staff

  BUTLER--Residents of Johnson County are tired of "fighting the bite" and are ready for something to be done. Mosquitos harbored by a tire waste facility located on the Butler Highway are posing a health hazard to nearby residents and their children.
  "We are just covered in bites; they're on our arms, legs, face and everything," said Barbara Phillips who lives near the tire waste facility. Another resident complained that she can no longer go out on her porch and read because the mosquitos are so bad.
  Karen Burchett, who owns the Pizza Place located behind the facility, has lived there for 25 years. In her opinion, the pesky bugs have never been as bad as they are this year.
  The former Lakecrest Amoco facility,16430 State Highway 67, in Butler, owned by Jerry Kevin Gilbert, has been under investigation by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), since Jan. 15.
  Gilbert told the Elizabethton Star that he originally bought the old store to turn it into a service station and restaurant, but he started collecting tires as a hobby and to help the environment by recycling them.
  There are no zoning laws at this point in Johnson County that prohibit Gilbert from operating a tire waste facility, according to the County Clerk.
   Gilbert told TDEC on Jan. 22 that he had several tire outlets that were interested in his service. On this same date he was given one year to remove tires from the site. He was also told by TDEC that during vector breeding season that the tires must be prevented from gathering water.
  "It is a legal process that takes time; we understand why residents are frustrated but we have to follow certain guidelines," said Thomas McDermott, manager of the Tennessee Department of Waste Management.
   According to the first notice of violation, sent on May 17 from the Environmental Assistance Center, Gilbert's site was in violation due to solid waste which causes a public nuisance and hazard to public health for harboring insects and vectors. At this time he was given 30 days to remove the tires from the property or address the mosquito issue by covering the tires or by using an insecticide to kill the larvae.
  On June 23, Gilbert was issued a second notice of violation and a Compliance Review Meeting (CRM) was scheduled for July 8 at the TDEC office in Johnson City. In this meeting TDEC required that Gilbert provide documentation citing the viability of a tire recycling market.
  In addition to the insect situation, TDEC sent Gilbert a formal letter on July 2 concerning the storage of used tires and inhibiting investigation of petroleum on the site. The owner of the former UST systems, Appalachian Oil Co., Inc. and their representatives (Schreiber & Associates) are currently conducting an environmental investigation and cleanup in response to the confirmed release of petroleum at the former Lakecrest Amoco. The amount of tires on the facility site limits access to the ground water monitoring wells installed.
  In a follow-up investigation performed on July 7 before the CRM, TDEC found the site was still in violation of the Tennessee Solid Waste Act and regulations.
  According to records at TDEC, Gilbert was a "no show" for the CRM, so a second meeting was scheduled and terms were set. Gilbert agreed to clean up the site according to the six standards set forth by the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Act.
  Gilbert has until Aug. 27 to do the following:
  - Remove all tires from the Butler and Blant Road sites that are not useable or that he has no intention of selling as used tires.
  - Furnish all receipts to the Division of Solid Waste Management to verify proper disposal of all tires from the site.
  - Store all useable tires in a manner that does not constitute harborage for insects and vectors. During discussions, Gilbert stated the useable tires would be stored in a covered structure.
  - Investigate a stain, which appeared to be a petroleum spill on the site, and remediate it as required by the Department of Solid Waste Management.
  - Cease all burning at the Blant Road site and remove residue to a proper storage facility.
  Gilbert also granted the Division of Underground Storage Tanks and contractors the right to conduct investigations and assessments of petroleum contamination.
  If Gilbert fails to comply with the guidelines, according to McDermott, his case will be referred to the Division of Solid Waste Management in Nashville. If he has worked hard to remove the tires and asks for more time, TDEC will consider an extension.
  Gilbert told the Elizabethton Star that he has sent a clean-up crew to the site, but they were threatened by locals and refused to return. "They were threatened so bad they weren't going back up there," said Gilbert.
  Gilbert now wishes he never invested in the business or bought the property. "I'm going to clean it up and shut it down," he said.