It’s all cleaned up now, but back in the spring, there was a huge illegal tire dump in the City of Lilburn.
In working to correct the problem, the City became the first local government in Gwinnett County to utilize the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) program helping property owners clean up and remove illegal tire dumps, according to EPD Environmental Compliance Specialist Jeff Rones.
Officials estimated that there were around 3,000 tires dumped in the woods behind the shopping center at 4805 Lawrenceville Highway, Lilburn, as passenger tires cascaded down a steep hill that led to a wetlands area next door.
Managers of the two properties, Lee Zimmerman, vice president for HRE Real Estate Services, Inc., of Atlanta, property managers for the owner, Lilburn Center, LLC., and Seema Faiyaz, representative for SF Living Trust, were victims of the illegal tire dump.
“There were so many unknowns in the discovery process,” said Zimmerman, who added that it was hard to tell when the illegal dumping began or how long the tires had been there.
“My first step was to contact police and ask what we needed to do,” he said. “We made an initial report with the city code enforcement in January.” In a letter to the city, he said that his company did not dispose of any tires at the site or did they allow anyone else to do so.
Zimmerman said he was grateful to the city for its role in applying for the EPD local government Scrap Tire Abatement Reimbursement (STAR) funding. “The city was under no obligation to do anything,” he said.
“It was an absolute mess, and it wasn’t easy gaining access to that ravine,” said Jenny Simpkins, Lilburn assistant city manager who, on behalf of the property managers, applied for funding under the STAR program. “It was a huge challenge.”
After Steve Castor, city code enforcement officer, made his investigation, Lilburn police set up remote surveillance and motion cameras near the site and were able to arrest two suspects in about two weeks, Lilburn Police Chief Bruce Hedley said.
These cameras were installed with motion detectors set for large vehicles. “In March, we got a hit on a truck back there, and we made an arrest,” he said. “This surveillance really paid off at the end of the day. This is a big deal to us.”
Two suspects were arrested by Lilburn Police: Melvin Bernard Head, 53, and Gerald White, 41, both of Atlanta. Head was arrested on a felony, attempting to dump solid waste, and was bound over for trial in Gwinnett County, Hedley said. Head’s record showed that he had been arrested 60 times in the state, police said. White was arrested on the same charge after confessing to officers and was released on his own recognizance.
“It was unbelievable! We knew that the same people were doing it, going in and out,” Hedley said.
Lilburn began searching for funds to clean up the mess, Simpkins said. “Lilburn City Manager Bill Johnsa asked his staff for resources to help out the property managers and owners.”
Joellen Wilson, planning director, and Brad Daugherty, code enforcement, suggested the STAR program. “Jeff Rones of EPD encouraged us to apply for the STAR funding,” Simpkins said.
Through the program, the city was reimbursed four dollars per tire or up to $12,000. Costs above that amount were the responsibility of the management agencies/owners.
“This is a great example of how the city can support private businesses and help residents,” she said. “The city doesn’t have to do anything, but that’s not the Lilburn way.”
The main goal of the STAR program, according to Rones, is to reduce scrap tire waste in Georgia by sending the tires to scrap tire processing facilities to be recycled. Local governments can be reimbursed by Georgia EPD for the costs of transporting and processing the scrap tires. Funding for reimbursement comes from the Solid Waste Trust Fund.
Three types of programs are available, Rones said: amnesty, right-of-way, and dump applications. Lilburn has applied for the dump application, the least common one, while amnesty is the most popular. “These are organized events where citizens of the local governments can bring their scrap tires to a designated collection location to be transported to a scrap tire processing facility,” Rones said.
The right-of-way (ROW) program consists of scrap tires being picked up from local government roads and collected in a designated location to be transported to a scrap tire processing facility. The ROW event lasts up to one year.
Georgia EPD requests a minimum of 90 days to allow for execution of the agreement. After the cleanup of the tires is finished, the local government will submit a report form to be approved by EPD.
The City of Lilburn applied for a dump application, which was approved by EPD. An agreement was signed and executed by the agency.
The EPD began its STAR program in 2016 and have removed and recycled more than 630,500 scrap tires statewide. More than $1.41 million has been reimbursed to local governments to cover costs of removing, transporting and processing the tires. “EPD is committed to cleaning up scrap tires in Georgia and encourages local governments to assist with this effort by applying to the STAR program,” Rones said. “Cities, counties, and sold waste management authorities are eligible for this program…”
The program is funded through the Solid Waste Trust Fund, itself funded by a fee on the sale of new tires in Georgia. The Recovered Materials Unit of EPD administers the STAR program to assist local government entities in the safe removal and recycling of scrap tires. All tires collected through the STAR program must be taken by a permitted tire carrier to an approved or permitted beneficial reuse scrap tire processor.
To report a suspected tire dump or for other used tire complaints, call the Recovered Materials Unit at 404-362-2537 or go to the web site, https://epd.georgia.gov/star-program.