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RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade St., Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462
DEM ANNOUNCES THAT DAVIS TIRE PILE CLEANUP IS COMPLETE
PROVIDENCE - The Davis tire pile is gone. Today, the last truckload of tires was removed from the Smithfield site as Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Frank Williams, state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, Lt. Governor Charles Fogarty, DEM Director Jan Reitsma and local officials looked on. It was, said Reitsma, "a wonderful holiday present for the state."
The Davis pile was a behemoth: over six million tires covering 14 acres rising as high as 25 feet in many places. Once considered the second worst tire pile in the country, it posed a dangerous environmental and public health threat to the surrounding area.
The first tires began to accumulate at the site in the 1970's, before laws regulating solid and hazardous waste were enacted. Over the past quarter century, and particularly during the past 10 years after stronger laws came into play, DEM and the Rhode Island Attorney General's office endeavored to address the matter by engaging in almost continuous litigation against the owner, William Davis.
Efforts to force Mr. Davis to remove the tires himself were only partially successful, leading to the removal of less than one million tires by 1994. In 1997, DEM stepped in using state funds to perform the cleanup. With the cleanup now complete, DEM and the Attorney General will seek to recover the state's costs through further litigation against Mr. Davis.
Judge Williams, who oversaw the implementation of the consent decree that required the tires to be removed, requested today's site visit to verify that the tires were gone. He said, "The people of Rhode Island should be very pleased that this environmental problem has been resolved before becoming a disaster. This is a splendid example of how the three branches of government working together can resolve such a major challenge. I commend everyone involved."
State Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, whose office brought suit on behalf of the state, said, "Today we breathe a bit easier knowing that the dangers of a potential environmental nightmare for the state and for the region have ended. It took the diligent and creative efforts of three attorneys general, the DEM, and the favorable decisions of the Rhode Island Superior Court to make it happen. Today these institutions can be proud of having served the people of Rhode Island well."
Reitsma added, "The presence of the Davis tire pile was long considered the state's gravest environmental threat. On behalf of all Rhode Islanders, I thank the Attorney General and his staff, particularly Terrence Tierney, for the tenacity they showed over the years in pursuing this issue, and I thank Judge Williams for the active interest he maintained in overseeing the process until the tires, and their threat of fire, were removed. The consequences of such a fire have laid heavily on the minds of all who worked together to alleviate the danger for these many years. Judge Williams has been a real advocate in assuring that the tools necessary to get the job done have been made available. Without his advocacy, we would not be standing here now, watching this last load disappear."
Of the more than six million tires removed, nearly four million were removed by the state. (Another 1.3 million were removed between 1997 and 1999 by United Technologies, Inc. under separate litigation and track.) Costs to the state so far are nearly $2.8 million for tire removal and another $125,000 in overhead, personnel and consultants to administer the tire removal. Funding included $1.2 million from the state's former 75-cent surcharge, or "tire tax," on new tires and $1.6 million from the state's Oil Spill Prevention, Administration, and Response Fund authored by Lt. Governor, then Senator, Charles Fogarty.
"When I sponsored this legislation, my goal was to protect the environment from the destruction of an oil spill. By using the OSPAR money to remove the tires, we will save our environment from the devastation that could have resulted if the tires had caught fire and released some two million gallons of oil into the environment," Fogarty said.
Prior to 1977 and prior to laws governing solid and hazardous waste storage, William Davis accepts both. In 1978, in settlement with the Town of Smithfield, he is allowed to store up to 25 acres of tires. Since 1977, the Department of Environmental Management, the RI State Attorney General's office, along with the US Environmental Protection Agency, have been in litigation with Mr. Davis almost continuously.