DENVER – Colorado has 60 million waste tires piled up around the state, and nearly every year, a legislator or two tries to fix the problem.
Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, was this year’s volunteer. But his bill died Tuesday evening after opponents quizzed him about a tire spill in his own district.
Colorado provides grants to people or cities that recycle or reuse tires. Coram’s House Bill 1096 would have expanded the range of people and companies that can get grants. He sought to add mobile tire processors, in order to reach far-flung parts of the Western Slope where there are no tire-recycling businesses.
“We started this tire-recycling program back in 1984. Every so often it rears its head,” Coram said. “Frankly, we’re not doing the job. We have 60 million tires out there that need to be processed.”
However, the House Agriculture Committee defeated the bill on a party-line 7-5 vote. Coram, whose district includes Montezuma County, sensed that his bill was in trouble and asked for the vote to be delayed until later this year, but his wish wasn’t granted.
Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, asked Coram about a tire spill in Ouray, where a heavy rain last July washed more than 1,000 waste tires into Cow Creek and the Uncompahgre River.
A landowner had been collecting waste tires since the 1940s and using them to stabilize a streambed, Coram said. But county officials didn’t know about it and were taken by surprise by the tire flood.
Old tires can pose health hazards. As they break down, they release oil and heavy metals such as lead. The water that pools in them can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Coram said his bill would not have affected the Ouray situation, and he said it was not a big problem to begin with, because most of the tires were picked up within five days of the storm.
However, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment opposed his bill. The department started a working group last November to look at waste tires, and Coram’s bill could have stepped on that process, said Charles Johnson, a health department official.
The bill also could have led to more problems similar to the Ouray situation by broadening the acceptable uses of waste tires, Johnson said.
“If you can use tires any way you want, we may be at risk for other hazards,” Johnson said.