COLUMBIA — The sprawling pile of hundreds of thousands of tires isn’t easy to spot from the ground, sitting in a rural South Carolina clearing accessible only by a dirt path that winds through thick patches of trees. No one knows how all those tires got there, or when.
But, Calhoun County Council Chairman David Summers says, “You can see it from space.”
Authorities have charged one person in connection with the mess of roughly 250,000 tires, which covers more than 50 acres on satellite images.
Litter control officer Boyce Till said he contacted the local sheriff and state health department, which is investigating who had been dumping the tires. But the worst possible penalty that could be imposed locally? A single $475 ticket for littering.
Records show the property is owned by Michael Keitt Jr. of Far Rockaway, N.Y.
A phone number for Keitt could not be found, but local officials said the man was one of several heirs to the property, all of whom live out of state.
As part of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s case, a state grand jury issued indictments against George Fontella Brown, 39, of Easley, on three charges of violating the state’s solid waste act, according to DHEC spokesman Adam Myrick. Those state charges carry much heftier possible penalties, including thousands of dollars in fines and up to a year in jail.
Tire dumping has historically been a problem in Calhoun County and other rural areas, said Summers, who recalled another giant tire pile in the 1990s that would dwarf the current monstrosity.
For now, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based tire processing company is working to clear the pile. Tricia Johnson, owner of Lee Tire Company, Inc., said between 10 and 15 tractor-trailer loads of tires have been shipped to her Florida facility. There, they will either have oil and steel extracted from them, or they will be shredded and made into tire-derived fuel, which Johnson said burns more cleanly than coal and is used by paper mills.