Finally a confluence of events in Ontario has led to new action on the issue of scrap tire management. The first relates to the creation of the Waste Diversion Organization (WDO). (See Final Analysis in the October/November 2002 edition.)
In April, the environment minister asked the WDO to establish an Industry Funding Organization (IFO) made up of brand owners and importers of tires to work with the WDO and stakeholders. The government directed the IFO to develop diversion plans for used tires and to submit them to the minister for approval.
Secondly, the Ontario government made a commitment to provide $1-million towards the clean up of stockpiled tires to reduce the risk of fires and to eliminate potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
The West Nile connection
Anyone who has tried to reduce the number of mosquitoes at their home, cottage or farm likely understands that the removal of abandoned tires or the drilling of holes in tire swings is essential. One tire provides a nearly perfect environment for the breeding of thousands of mosquitoes. Water is easily caught and retained in the tire while the sunlight absorbed by the black rubber warms the water making it very comfortable for mosquito larvae to breed. With the arrival and spread of the West Nile virus over the last year in Ontario (and now elsewhere in Canada) the issue of managing the approximate 11 million used tires generated in Ontario (and the millions generated in other provinces) each year has become more critical.
It’s in the context of the WDO tire initiative and the ongoing concern of West Nile that the ministry’s SWAT team embarked on a new program to deal with illegally stored tires in early June. Shortly after, the ministry announced that Regulation 347 (which deals with a great deal of waste and recyclable materials) would be amended. The amendments provide additional powers for ministry personnel and medical officers of health to take action to decrease the risk of contracting West Nile virus.
The amendments, which are only proposals at press time, invoke a four-step process to determine, through a local risk assessment, the risk of the spread of West Nile. The first step is to determine that there is a risk and the second is to advise the owner/operator of the used tire site of that determination.
The owner/operator would then be permitted to develop their own plan to manage mosquito borne disease. The last step would be the implementation of that plan. The stated aim is to reduce the potential breeding ground for mosquitoes that could involve bringing tires inside or covering them to prevent the collection of water or organic debris.
One might wonder why government officials need these new regulatory powers to deal with West Nile virus and stockpiled tires in the province. Regulation 347 currently only requires sites with 5,000 or more tires to obtain a certificate of approval from the environment ministry. Sites with less than 5,000 tires do not require a certificate of approval. The kicker, as it were, is that cleanups can only be ordered by the ministry to bring facilities within the legal tire storage limit for the particular site. As such, the ministry can only order site operators or owners to reduce the number of tires to those allowed on the site. Where no certificate of approval is required (less than 5,000 tires) no current authority exists to address the issue of tire management and potential West Nile risks.
While the new amendments will not be implemented in time to deal with it, a current example of a site that needs work is in the news. While not as big as the Hagersville tire dump, which resulted in a large fire about a decade ago, a tire dump at Otterville, Ontario (near London) has been ordered to clean up as part of the early June environmental SWAT blitz. The Otterville dump has a checkered history. (The editor-in-chief of this magazine was one of the first media to expose the Otterville site.) Over the years the operators of the dump have continuously accepted tires for a fee without recycling the lion’s share of those received. Somewhere between 100,000 and 350,000 tires stored at the site (the number varies depending on who is speaking) pose a significant risk both for fire as well as a breeding site for mosquitoes.
In a move that demonstrates the seriousness of the matter the province issued an RFP to cleanup of the site should the owner/operator not comply with the recent orders and has set aside one million dollars to pay for the cleanup.
(See Regulation Roundup in the February/March 2003 edition, and “Recycling: Wheel Comes Full Circle” in the April/May 2003 edition).
Written by Adam Chamberlain, LL.B. of Power Budd, the Canadian affiliate of Cameron McKenna, an international law and consulting firm. Adam sits on the board of directors of the Ontario Waste Management Association. E-mail Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org