By Caitlin Switzer
MONTROSE-The stacks of old tires and computer monitors are lying on the ground, in plain sight. What is not visible to the naked eye, however, is the fetid pond filled with waste tires. When a brave resident of one of the Great New Homes’ aging trailer courts peeked through a fence, however, and took photos of what she saw, she shared them with the Mirror.
The exposed hazardous waste dump site, located on the property of the San Juan Trailer Park that backs onto the Cedar Creek waterway, is in no way legal, noted Montrose Police Chief Tom Chinn.
“We were not aware of this, but I am sending my code officer over right now,” Chinn told the Mirror on Sept. 22. “E-waste should be properly recycled-the City holds a round-up twice a year for these things, and most electronics can be recycled any day of the week at Recla Metals.”
Because of the hazards, however, Recla Metals– which does accept most waste electronics –does not take televisions and computer monitors, said company owner Dian Fulks.
“We take everything from old cell phones to giant old Xerox machines, but we can’t take televisions or computer monitors at all,” she said. “They are hazardous waste, and contain mercury. Inert metals are not so good, and must be disposed of within certain boundaries and according to specific guidelines. I suggest calling the City of Montrose to find out when the e-waste recycle days are.”
The City of Montrose web site notes that “Electronic waste or e-waste includes PCs, monitors, laptops, TVs, and other complex circuitry items that are at the end of useful life or no longer wanted. Electronic devices contain lead, chromium, cadmium, mercury, and other toxic materials. When discarded in the landfill, toxic substances from these devices can leach into the soil and groundwater.”
The Great Homes waste dump site is located just yards from Cedar Creek. The old tires visible at the site pose just as great a hazard, Chinn noted.
“Tires must be recycled on their own,” Chinn said. “They are highly dangerous, because once they get water in them you have a breeding ground for mosquitos.”
The problems associated with the disposal of waste tires drew statewide attention after a flash flood in July of 2011 uncovered a decades-old stash of tires in Ouray County that were traced to a Montrose area business owned by Butch Gunn. Watch Newspapers Reporter Samantha Wright noted earlier this month that initially, “upward of 1,000 tires buried in a ravine on Gunn’s property above Burro Creek on County Road 4 came down into Cow Creek and the Uncompahgre River.”
This year, during cleanup efforts by Ridgway Valley Enterprises at the Ouray County site, 102.5 more tons of waste tires were unearthed, according to Wright, who learned that the cost of the overall cleanup, expected to be finished by year’s end, is a staggering $525,000, to be covered by a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
Also this year, on June 6, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law legislation proposed by State Reps. Don Coram (R-Montrose) and Max Tyler (D-Lakewood) to finally address the state’s enormous waste tire stockpiles. Colorado currently leads the nation in the number of waste tires improperly disposed of–more than 60 million tires rest in two enormous piles located north of Hudson and south of Colorado Springs, according to a Denver Post column dated April 19 of 2014 and written by Rubber Manufacturers Association Vice President Michael Blumenthal. Blumenthal noted that the bipartisan legislation championed by Coram and Tyler this year will eventually shut down and cleanup the tire monofills and bring an end to an inefficient taxpayer subsidy payment to end users of waste tires while cutting the state’s tire fee on new tire purchases from $1.50 to $0.55.
Meanwhile, those who learn of an illegal dump site do not need the courage shown by Cottonwood Trailer Park resident and whistleblower Lois Phillips, who took the first photos of the Great Homes illegal waste site.
“We have a lot of good people here in Montrose who are not afraid to report anything,” noted Chief Chinn. “We need folks who are not afraid. But everyone out there can be our eyes and ears; you can always report things anonymously through the Crimestoppers line, which is never traced, at 970-249-8900.”
Reporting is everyone’s responsibility, he said.
“We all need to take care of our community,” Chinn said. “We are all in this together.”
Calls to Montrose City Manager Bill Bell and Great Homes Company management were not returned as of press time.