Ron Garza, executive director of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council.

WESLACO, RGV – Experts say upwards of two million tires have been dumped illegally in the Rio Grande Valley.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council says such dumping negatively impacts economic development, blocks waterways and creates a health hazard. To raise awareness of the problem, LRGVDC is launching a program on Saturday titled “Road to Recycling” Regional Tire Collection Project.

LRGVDC Executive Director Ron Garza said: “Illegally dumped tires are a huge problem for the entire valley, impacting tourism, waterways and can serve as breeding grounds for rodents and mosquitoes that carry harmful viruses. To help address this issue, the Counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, Willacy and various cities throughout the region have partnered with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council to bring the “Road to Recycling” Regional Tire Collection Project.”

Garza said the project launches Saturday, with drop-off sites located across the Rio Grande Valley. He spoke about the dangers of illegal dumping in a Livestream with Rio Grande Guardian publisher Mark Hanna on Facebook on Monday. Garza told Hanna that the new project is regional in scope.

“We are trying to focus on and stem illegal tire dumping. Over the years, cities in the Valley have held cleanup days, they have had an amnesty. So, this is really nothing new. The unique thing is that it encompasses the entire Rio Grande Valley. The cities and counties have contributed to make our pot larger. We have about 12 cities now that have signed up,” Garza said.

“Every resident of the Valley will live no more than seven or eight miles from a collection site where they can take up to four tires a person. What is really exciting about this is the collaboration, we have never had anything on this scale before.”

Garza said the title of project was chosen for a reason. “It is a process and this project is only step one. We need to curb illegal tire dumping. We need city and maybe county ordinances to control illegal dumping. That is the next step. Our long-term vision is to recycle tires here and make a bi-product here.”

Hanna pointed out to Garza that different forms of energy can be created from tires. Garza responded that he has educated himself over last four to six months.

“We are using this project to create awareness. Tires affect economic development, they affect waterways and they affect health hazards. There is a lot of impact. Unfortunately, it is kind of one of those out of sight, out of mind issues. But, the experts say there are upwards of two million tires that are dumped in our area. If a hurricane hits it could affect flooding and drainage, mosquitos with rain, and zika.”

Garza and LRGVDC will hold a news conference to announce the new project at the group’s offices in Weslaco on Thursday, starting at 3 p.m.

“We have created a dedicated project page that will list many of the details including a recent PSA and collection site map,” Garza added.

The link is:

Sen. Rodriguez’s Tire Legislation Vetoed

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week vetoed state Sen. José Rodríguez’s Senate Bill 570, which, the author of the legislation says, would have helped communities deal with the problem of scrap tires being illegally dumped.

Rodríguez, who represents El Paso, said the illegal dumping of tires is an issue that is particularly troubling for local health authorities trying to prevent the spread of the Zika virus.

“What the governor has done is put the health and safety of Texans at risk by removing a tool that would have reduced illegally dumped tires, which are breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry Zika and other dangerous illnesses,” Rodríguez said.

State Sen. José Rodríguez

Rodríguez said Abbott vetoed his bill on the basis that Texans would have to regularly consult the Texas Register and the actions of local government to know if they are in violation of the laws related to tire disposal. In fact, Rodríguez said, under the current status quo, Texans must look to the Texas Register to find existing administrative rules put in place by TCEQ. In contrast, Rodríguez said, the bill would have put the framework into state statute, clearly delineating requirements for proper disposal of scrap tires.

“It also would have given local governments the same civil and criminal enforcement tools that currently exist for other environmental violations in state law,” Rodríguez said. “That’s why the tire industry – from manufacturers to retailers to processors – supported the bill, which they helped develop as part of a broad coalition that included health officials and local governments.”

Rodríguez said his research shows that more than 36 million tires are discarded each year in Texas, roughly one and a half tires for every person residing in the state. Several million of these tires are illegally dumped each year, creating fire, pollution, and public health and safety risks, such as increases in vector-borne illnesses like Zika, West Nile, and dengue fever, the senator stated.

Rodríguez said a large number of stakeholders wrote letters to Gov. Abbott in favor of his bill. The stakeholders are listed at the end of this story.

“S.B. 570 aims to address illegal tire dumping while updating and modernizing antiquated laws as was requested by industry participants,” wrote Liberty Tire Recycling and other tire industry stakeholders. “S.B. 570 is not only negotiated and agreed to legislation but was requested by industry participants who seek to stem this illegal activity.”

In another letter to Gov. Abbott, Goodyear Tire and Rubber wrote that S.B. 570 “is not over regulation. At best, it is the minimum regulation required.”

The Texas Public Health Coalition, which includes over 30 health-related organizations including the Texas Medical Association, Texas Pediatric Society, and Texas Hospital Association, wrote that S.B. 570 “provides an important opportunity to take proactive steps against dangerous diseases.”

Rodríguez said finding ways to deal with the issue has been a long-time top priority for cities, counties, and public health authorities. He said S.B. 570 was the first significant statewide legislation since the last attempts to deal with the issue, in the 1990s, and was supported by a wide range of industry, health, local government, environmental, and other stakeholders. The list of participants and supports totaled almost 40, split roughly equally among the different categories of stakeholder.

“The goal of S.B. 570 was to guarantee bad actors were stopped without overregulating the many model industry participants across the state. Given the participation and agreement of the many stakeholders and the absence of any opposition, I’m not sure how the governor came to his conclusion,” Rodríguez added.

The stakeholder group included:

Texas Tire & Automotive Association, Liberty Tire, Texas Automotive Recyclers Association, LKQ, Inc., Recycling Council of Texas, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Rubber Manufacturers Association, State of Texas Alliance for Recycling, Texas Border Coalition, Environmental Defense Fund, Environment Texas, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, City of Brownsville, City of Corpus Christi, City of El Paso, City of Houston, City of Fort Worth, City of Irving, City of Laredo, City of San Antonio, Texas Municipal League, El Paso County, Harris County, Tarrant County, Travis County, Texas Association of Counties, Texas Conference of Urban Counties, County Judges & Commissioners Association of Texas, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Bandera County River Authority & Groundwater District, Delta Lake Irrigation District, San Antonio River Authority, Water Environment Association of Texas, Texas Association of Clean Water Agencies, Texans for Clean Water, Texas Heritage Protection, Texas Medical Association, Texas Public Health Coalition.