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Tired of tires

Superior Watershed Partnership, Great Lakes Conservation Corps assist U.P. communities with clean-up project

Allison Ranusch, left, Noah Gostomski and Brandon Calterider, a crew from the Great Lakes Conservation Corps, stand in front of piles of scrap tires they collected in the summer of 2019. The Superior Watershed Partnership and GLCC are partnering up again to help communities in the Upper Peninsula with tire clean-up projects. (Photo courtesy of SWP)

MARQUETTE — It might be surprising to some area residents to learn that old tires can be found dumped in the woods, stockpiled outdoors or used as erosion control across the Upper Peninsula.

Some may also be surprised to learn that the environmental impacts of these tires can carry over to affect public health and economic development, as tires contain chemicals and heavy metals that can pollute lands and waters when they are dumped illegally in the environment.

However, resources to clean up old tires can sometimes be difficult for communities to obtain.

That’s why the Superior Watershed Partnership and Great Lakes Conservation Corps are teaming up to assist communities in cleaning up and properly disposing of old tires.

The two groups are mostly accepting car and truck tires as well as some tractor tires, SWP Special Projects Coordinator Mindy Kantola said in an email.

Tires will be removed from the environment and hauled to the nearest approved recycling center, Kantola said.

“Almost all communities in the Upper Peninsula have a scrap tire problem of some sort; tires illegally dumped in the woods, stockpiles of used tires or tires used for erosion control, etc. The problem is that most communities do not have the staff or resources to coordinate a tire clean-up project,” Kantola said.

SWP has been working on grant-funded scrap tire removal projects in the past through on-the-ground work from the GLCC.

This year, the effort is focused on the entire U.P. and is funded by a grant through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, she said.

In the summer of 2019, SWP and GLCC assisted communities in Marquette, Baraga, Alger and Ontonagon counties by collecting scrap tires from a variety of areas, including urban, wooded and coastal sites, Kantola said.

The groups collected over 2,000 tires in one weekend after coordinating efforts with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and area residents.

The main goal of this project is to remove old scrap tires from the woods and waterways on private and public lands to help protect the environment and community health, Kantola said.

Several of the dump sites are located in forested areas, including a wooded site in Marquette where GLCC hauled out over 500 tires, she added.

“Many of these sites are in close proximity to rivers, wetlands, well heads, inland lakes or the coastal zones of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Other sites are near residential areas or located on the edge of otherwise vibrant communities,” she said.

The two groups are looking to help out other communities and Kantola encourages people to call or email SWP to notify where piles of scrap tires are located to help prioritize sites, she said.

All U.P. communities are eligible to get involved in this initiative at no cost, and assistance will be based on the order of contact, number of tires, site access, environmental impact and other factors, Kantola said.

With each tire clean-up site, a four-person crew from GLCC will help facilitate the project as they are trained and supplied with a truck, tools and safety equipment, Kantola said.

SWP also provides the necessary insurance and liability coverage for this work.

To contact SWP about a potential tire removal, email mindy@superiorwatersheds.org or call 906-228-6095 ext. 16.

For more information, visit superiorwatersheds. org.

Jackie Jahfetson can be reached at jjahfetson@miningjournal.net.

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