It was almost three years ago that officers from the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office opened the door of an abandoned house in Lorain and were faced with a pile of 3,500 tires.
Two years later, Jose Martinez was found guilty of breaking and entering and illegal dumping for the crime, but the Martinez case is only the tip of the iceberg in a problem that’s been plaguing Lorain County for years.
Since 2009, Lorain County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Curtis of the Environmental Crimes Unit has been working to reduce the number of tires that are being illegally dumped around the county. People will bring their used tires to a repair shop or used tire store and pay the store a few dollars to take the tires off their hands, Curtis said. Some of the stores then pay another person a smaller sum to get rid of those tires and pocket the profit. That person, often a drug addict trying to make a little money, illegally dumps the tires in a field, abandoned house or alley, Curtis said.
There is a network in place for tire stores to legally dispose of their tires by sending them to be recycled and reused, according to Ohio Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Linda Oros.
When some tire stores take the easier, illegal route, it creates an eyesore for the community, one that the city often has to pay to clean up, Curtis said.
“It blights the whole neighborhood,” Curtis said, adding that when tires are dumped, they create image of a dirty or unsafe neighborhood. “It attracts the problem people.”
Curtis also blames the illegal dumping for creating a financial burden on the city and residents.
“It’s tough on the economy. If you own a business and you have to pay to have your dumpster dumped, how long can you stay in the business?” Curtis said, addressing the problem that many business owners are coming across where someone throws tires in their garbage bins.
In recent years, Curtis has been able to cut back on the amount of illegal tire dumping by strictly enforcing laws.
There is a tire carrying law that, if a person is found to be carrying more than 10 tires in a car, it’s an unclassified felony, Curtis said. The person can be fined $10,000 and could face two to four years in prison, he added.
Despite the decline of dumping in recent years, Curtis said he and the Sheriff’s Office still have a way to go to put a stop to it, and one city in Lorain County is feeling a lot of the burden.
Lorain has been especially affected by illegal dumping, mainly in the 2nd Ward, which encompasses parts of downtown Lorain and Broadway, according to Lorain Councilman Dennis Flores.
Flores regularly reports the effects of tire dumping in the city. The evidence, he said, is piled up in alleys, fields and especially abandoned homes throughout Lorain.
The worst part of the dumping is the effect it has on the environment, Flores said. Tires will often collect water, posing a health problem, or catch on fire, destroying the environment around them, according to Oros.
However, much like Curtis’ attempts to enforce dumping laws, Flores said Lorain is making great strides toward cleaning up the streets and removing the eyesores caused by things like abandoned tires. He hopes residents in the city will help by reporting cases of illegal dumping.
“The only way (to fix the problem) is if you have people in the community who come forward and talk,” he said.