The Letcher County Fiscal Court was told this week that it may eventually have to pay a portion of a $400,000 bill to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cover costs of cleaning up a fire at an Ashland landfill in 2006 where tires from Letcher County were shredded and used as an alternate daily cover material for the landfill.
“They’re trying to figure a way to figure liability,” said Letcher County Attorney Harold Bolling at a special-called court meeting held Jan. 11. “At this point there hasn’t been anything decided on how to assess liability.”
Bolling said Letcher County is one of 115 entities that shipped a combined total of approximately 20 million tires to Cooksey Brothers Disposable Company Inc. in Ashland for the tires to be used as a cover material for the landfill.
“Back in the mid ’90s there was a big push by the state and federal government to clean up and get rid of and recycle used tires,” said Bolling. “Part of that deal they had permitted various landfills — and Cooksey Brothers was one of the first ones to do it — to file an application to allow shredded rubber to be used in a landfill. You put down your layer of garbage and then you put down a layer of shredded rubber.”
Bolling said as bad as it was, at least 15 or 20 counties participated in the project.
“It was the greatest thing in the world for everybody to do at the time,” said Bolling.
Then in January 2006 the shredded tires caught on fire.
“During second shift some guy emitted some sparks out of an end loader and caught rubber on fire as he was walking it in and caused a big fire up there,” said Bolling. “EPA went in and put it out. Cost about $400,000. Now they want everybody that shipped tires up there for that purpose to pay a portion of the bill.”
Bolling said the EPA has come across records where Letcher County shipped tires to the Ashland landfill.
“They are going to try to find some way to portion each person’s liability in putting out the fire,” said Bolling. “We probably shipped 100 tons documented in loads. There is only one memo that actually lists gross weight, tire weight. I believe we documented 10 loads.”
Bolling said two loads were taken to Ashland each year from 2001-2005 and the county paid a flat fee of $250 per truckload.
“We paid for it and now we are going to pay again,” said District Two Magistrate Archie Banks. “I have major problems with that now.”
“That’s what I have problems with,” said Letcher County Judge/ Executive Jim Ward.
“Fight them ‘til hell freezes over,” said Banks. “They told the county they could do it.”
District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming said the county has been mixing tires with regular garbage for 12 years.
“You can go up there and dump garbage right now if you’ve got tires in the back of the truck it goes right in with the rest of the garbage,” said Fleming.
“I don’t know of any that we have put in there,” said Ward. “We separate all of our garbage out. Now, if somebody come in there and dumped a truck and we didn’t know one was there, possibly one might get thrown in there.”
“I’ve seen them thrown in there, boys,” said Fleming. “They may be doing a better job now, but it was done for years, Jim.”
“Our boys are pretty good because if they see a tire they will jerk them out,” said Ward.
“Our guys separate them out,” said Banks. “I’ve watched them.”
Ward said the county now takes tires to a landfill in London.
“They need to figure out how to burn tires for energy,” said Banks.
In other business, the court approved purchasing a 2009 Chevy Silverado truck for $33,425 from Bob Hook Chevrolet in Louisville. It also approved buying two spreaders for $5,113 each and a snowplow for $5,695 from TEBCO of Kentucky Inc. in Richmond.
Ward said the new equipment is expected to arrive today (Wednesday).
The court also voted at the meeting to reappoint Magistrate Fleming to the Letcher County Board of Health.