Buried for decades in a grave of silt, rock and sand in the Tug Fork River, hundreds of illegally dumped tires resurfaced September 20 as volunteers from two states dug and hauled them from the water for recycling.
A dozen members from the Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Waste Management Field Operations Branch helped local volunteers from Friends of the Tug Fork River, AmeriCorps, West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Williamson Park and Recreation Commission remove about 500 used tires in the eastern Kentucky Appalachian community of South Williamson.
“A lot of these tires are historically from people and businesses dumping in creeks and as we have more flooding and washouts these are surfacing in the river,” said Brian Osterman, manager of the Division of Waste Management Field Operations Branch. “A month ago, nearly 900 were pulled from the river. Last year, about 2,300 were pulled (from the river).”
Osterman said the tires will be recycled into crumb rubber and used in products such as mulch, rubber modified asphalt, and rubber matting for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) playground.
John Burchett, a Friends of the Tug Fork River volunteer, said this is the third year of the group’s efforts to reclaim tires in the Williamson area from the river, which snakes along the West Virginia and Kentucky border.
“In 2019, the West Virginia DEP came and we recovered 2,321 tires in four days’ work. Three weeks ago, we got 819 tires in one day,” said Burchett. “Today, I don’t know what we will get, but we are making a big difference and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet has come, the West Virginia DEP is here…it’s a two-state river and we have both states working together — that’s the important thing.”
Burchett said volunteers are welcome at future cleanup efforts scheduled Sept. 30, Oct. 2 and Oct. 4.
More information can be found at the public Facebook page Friends of the Tug Fork River.
Read a longer account of the day’s environmental cleanup at the cabinet’s webzine: Land, Air& Water.