No one knew what was happening behind the wooden fence at the property in the 3500 block of Lake Kathy Road in Tunnel Hill until some people working nearby started to complain last July.
“They were putting in a new electrical substation, and they were just getting eaten up by mosquitos,” said Norman Barashick, executive director of the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Management Authority.
“They started complaining. I believe some of the people who started complaining called county commissioners,” he said.
Barashick and officials from the Whitfield County zoning department and the Whitfield County Fire Department found a massive number of tires had been stacked up on the property, which filled with water when it rained and became a breeding ground for mosquitos.
“The gentleman who owned the property had set himself up in a tire transport business,” Barashick said. “That requires a permit by the state of Georgia, and he got that permit. But he wasn’t operating correctly. He thought that by having that permit he was allowed to store and sort through the tires. He wasn’t. He needed an additional permit for that, which he didn’t have.”
Barashick said the man planned to sort through the tires hoping to find ones in good enough condition to sell.
“But he couldn’t do that, and in just six months he was able to accumulate what we are estimating is around 7,000 tires,” Barashick said.
Barashick said they were able to convince the man, whom he says has since moved out of Whitfield County, to give up his license and leave the tire transportation business. But that still left thousands of tires on the property, which will continue to fill with water when it rains.
“It’s the state that issues the permit, and it was the state permit that he was in violation of, so we turned it over to the state,” Barashick said. “When he forfeited his license, he also forfeited a $10,000 bond. The state not only has the bond money, it has money from the solid waste trust fund. Anytime someone buys a new tire in the state of Georgia they pay a fee of $1 to the state. The state is supposed to use that to clean up illegal tire dumps. The problem is that for the last decade or so the state has redirected much of that money to the general fund and not used it the way it is supposed to be used.”
According to data from the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, the state “redirected” $37.6 million, or 65 percent of all money collected for the solid waste trust fund, between 2004 and 2012.
Officials with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) did not immediately return a telephone message about the site Friday afternoon, but Barashick said the last conversation he had with the EPD was a few weeks ago.
“They said they hope to have a cleanup contractor by the end of the second quarter, so by June or July we might see some activity up there,” he said.
By that time, mosquito season will be well underway.
“It’s already started. We’ve been getting calls since March and April from people about water building up and mosquitos breeding,” Barashick said.
Barashick said he has asked EPD to include mosquito control in its efforts to clean up the site.