A massive mountain of scrap tires that had grown to more than twice the size permitted by state environmental rules is back in compliance after some last-minute prompting by regulators.
An inspection report released last week by the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy concluded that B-Rose Tire Recycling of Alvo had made “obvious visual progress” and had come into compliance with a Sept. 1 deadline to reduce its scrap tire inventory to below 160,000 “passenger tire equivalents” or PTE, the measurement used by the agency.
It was unclear if the operation had also complied with a directive by the State Fire Marshal’s Office to create several fire lanes between the scrap tire piles to allow access by emergency vehicles in case of a fire.
When contacted Wednesday, Beth Ann Rose, one of the co-owners of the scrap tire operation, said only that “everything’s good. Thank you for calling.”
In April, after months of failing to comply with state requests seeking voluntary compliance with regulations on scrap tire storage, the recyclers signed a legal consent agreement with the Department of Environment and Energy requiring the business to reduce the pile of shredded tires or face fines or other sanctions.
B-Rose fell short of meeting the first benchmark — to reduce the pile to 240,000 PTE by July 1 — but reported an inventory of 143,042 at the end of August, about 17,000 PTE below the goal for Sept. 1.
That came after a warning letter from the agency Aug. 9 expressing doubts that the tire piles would be reduced unless “all efforts” were focused on hauling shredded tires to a landfill. B-Rose reported hauling out 123,176 PTEs during August, which exceeded the number of tires hauled out in the months of May, June and July combined.
A Sept. 1 inspection by the state agency, which was released Tuesday, used estimates done by agency officials to conclude that B-Rose had come into compliance.
That same report said that B-Rose had made “a good faith effort” in working toward compliance with the directive by the State Fire Marshal’s Office to create fire lanes for emergency vehicles between the tire piles and at the borders of the property. Drone photographs taken by the state show a new fire lane running through one large pile of scrap tires, but no fire lanes at the boundaries of the facility.
A spokeswoman for the State Fire Marshal’s Office said Wednesday the office had not yet conducted an inspection to determine whether the recycling operation was in compliance.
Carla Felix, a spokeswoman for the State Department of Environment and Energy, said that the agency will continue to monitor the B-Rose operation to ensure that it remains in compliance with state rules.
The tire pile at Alvo, a Cass County village of 132 residents halfway between Omaha and Lincoln, had grown to as much as 323,228 PTE in mid-2020, more than twice the number that the recycler was permitted to have on site.
Nearby residents had complained about the tires providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes and posing a threat that, if a fire broke out, would force the evacuation of the town.
One neighbor who had complained about the growth of the scrap tire piles, and the fire risk they posed, said he still wasn’t convinced that B-Rose was in compliance.
“How do they know how many tires are down there?” asked Dennis Tempelmeyer, a retiree who lives in Alvo. “The only way to tell is clean them all up and start over.”
The scrap tire pile is just one of the controversies swirling around Alvo. Recall efforts are underway against two of the five members of the Alvo Village Board. One of the recall targets is Larry Langer, the co-owner of the scrap tire recycling operation.
Linn Moore, the Cass County election commissioner, said that sufficient signatures have been collected to hold a recall election against Langer and Robin LaPage, who chairs the Village Board. Moore said the two could opt to resign. A date for the recall election has not yet been set.
There also has been a legal battle over ownership of the town’s rescue squad equipment. And, in 2018, former Alvo Village Clerk Ginger R. Neuhart pleaded guilty to embezzling $105,000 from the village. She was also charged with embezzling funds from two other towns, Ithaca and Memphis, that had employed her.