Work to remove about 80 tons of tires dumped on a St. Helena Island property over a 50-year period is nearly complete, thanks to cooperation among the property owner and several state and county agencies.
The pile was spotted unexpectedly in woods and marsh during a Beaufort County Department of Mosquito Control helicopter flyover in December.
Discarded tires, department head Greg Hunt said, make perfect incubators for mosquitoes, and those in tidal marsh have a higher rate of West Nile virus.
The property owner is 82-year-old retired librarian Shirley Cole. One of her daughters, Valerie Cole-Nixon, said the pile accumulated when her late father and uncle ran a full-service gas station on the property from the 1950s through the late 1990s.
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The Cole family paid a private contractor to remove the tires from the marsh and pile them in open space. Cole-Nixon, speaking on behalf of her mother, said she and her three siblings had to pool several thousand dollars to pay for the work after being ordered by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to remove the tires. She declined to give the exact cost.
"In a nutshell, my mom received a notification from DHEC saying we had to have them removed within 30 days," she said.
Beaufort County received money from a state waste-tire fund to move the tires to a recycling center, according to county recycling coordinator Carol Murphy.
Fifty cents of every tire sold in the state goes to the fund, according to DHEC's website. Money is given to counties for tire cleanup and recycling based on population.
"Remediation is what the tire fund was set up for," Murphy said. "Should (Cole) lose her property for something that happened 50 years ago?"
Part of the pile was formed long before a 1993 regulation made it illegal to keep waste tires en mass or put them in landfills, but Cole-Nixon said her father and uncle never knew the law was enacted. They dumped them in the same place until the business closed in 2000.
It costs $100 per ton to haul tires from the St. Helena property, Murphy said. The work should be finished this week.
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