Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hot spots linger during Hoopeston tire fire cleanup, FOIA filed

Firefighters attempt to extinguish the tire fire at J&R Used Tire Service in Hoopeston, Ill., on June 19. Photo by Dan Johnson.
State environmental officials are continuing to monitor the site where a massive tire fire broke out 43 days ago, citing new concerns about dust during the cleanup process.

According to the Champaign News-Gazette, officials from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) say the site has dried out since firefighters poured hundreds of thousands of gallons of water on the tire fire at J&R Used Tire Service in Hoopeston, Ill. on June 19. This is creating an issue for "tire dust," which can not be kept down with more water.

The News-Gazette reports that IEPA is working with experts to bring chemicals to the site to reduce airborne tire dust. Meanwhile, IEPA also has contracted an outside company to operate a mobile water treatment plant to remove chemicals from runoff.

Illinois Department of Transporation (IDOT) flew a manned aircraft over the tire site, and with an infrared sensor, revealed 10 different "hot spots" within the tire fire that are still active. A company has been contracted to monitor the temperature of the debris as it is excavated. Cleanup could take as much as 16 weeks.

So far, none of the data collected by IEPA or other officials has been released to the public. The Illinois Attorney General's office has filed an injunction to stop operations at J&R Used Tire Service, based on dangerous levels of air and water pollution.

July 31, I've filed an electronic Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain emails and data and release them to the public. Here's the text from my FOIA:

Subject Matter: Fire at J&R Tire Service Inc. at 103 Maple St., Ho
Illinois EPA, Division of Records Mgmt/FOIA - - 217/782-9290(FAX)

Date From: Jun 19 2013
To: Jul 31 2013

Other Information: This FOI request is for all IEPA email correspondence regarding the June 19 fire at J&R Tire Service Inc., located 103 Maple St. in Hoopeston, IL, including correspondence relating to contamination of air, soil, and groundwater, from the first day of the fire on June 19, 2013 to present.Additionally, this FOI requests all data air, water, and soil quality data gathered in Hoopeston, IL for that time period.

Fee Waiver/Reduction Justification: This request is to access and disseminate information regarding the health, safety, and welfare or the legal rights of the general public, as per Section 6(c) of FOIA.

The IEPA has five business days to respond to the request, according to Illinois FOIA law. A July 19 email sent to IEPA spokesman Andrew Mason requesting information and comment has not been answered as of yet.

As I wrote previously, studies of tire combustion show that emissions are comparable with fossil fuel combustion, when tires are burned in a controlled environment. However tire fires which occur in the open air, outside of a controlled environment, emit toxic and cancer-causing chemicals. Some of these chemicals are mutagens, which can damage genetic lineage and continue harm people over many generations.

Additionally, I wrote about the importance of a cheap, community-based solution to environmental monitoring, which collects and distributes environmental data independently of government organizations. On this website, I argued that low-cost particulate sensors could be deployed to offer citizens up-to-minute information on what's happening to their community's air.

J&R Used Tire Service stored close to 1 million tires at the time of the fire. According to IEPA's Used Tire Unit (UTU) database, J&R is one of 3,469 registered used tire retailers in Illinois.