St. John Business Owners May See Relief as WMA Begins To Collect Tires

Relief may be in sight for St. John business owners who are struggling with the disposal of old tires a little more than a month after the V.I. Waste Management Authority promised to solve the problem at an island town meeting.

The first step in getting rid of the tires was choosing companies which would accept the old tires and ensuring the removal process was within WMA’s budget, said WMA Executive Director May Cornwall.

“You have to figure out how they want to take them, and how they want them to be packed,” said Cornwall. “You have to make sure that the cost to dispose of them is in your budget.”

A Florida company will take whole tires to be burned in a cement kiln, and a Georgia company will take cut-up tires for reuse in products such as asphalt, according to Cornwall.


The V.I. Waste Management Authority will begin the removal of used tires from St. John – starting with the approximately 2,000 tires collected at the E&C Gas Station, above.

Tire Shearer Suggested
A tire shearer, suggested by Myrtle Barry of E&C Gas Station at the early-March St. John WMA meeting, will be used to cut the tires which will be sent to Georgia into four pieces, Cornwall added.

“We’re purchasing a shearer that Miss Barry turned us on to as far as a machine that can cut tires into four equal pieces,” said Cornwall. “That makes more sense. We can get more in the trailer and cut down our costs, per tire, for shipping.”

The shearer will be delivered in approximately two weeks, according to the WMA official.

In the meantime, collection of whole tires will begin, she added.

“Our plan of action at this time is to start at Miss Barry, and have her tires loaded as much as we can,” said Cornwall.

Barry has volunteers ready to load the tires, which must be stacked in a certain way to maximize space and to avoid tires rolling out of the trailer, added Cornwall.

Another trailer will then collect any remaining tires at E&C Gas Station and at the Texaco gas station, followed by the Susannaberg transfer station, where the Public Works Department brings tires found on the side of the road and in dumpsters.

“Based on the quantity of tires on St. John that we’ve been able to establish, three 40-foot trailers should cover it,” said Cornwall. Public Works is currently in possession of thousands of tires, deputy director Ira Wade said at the town meeting.

“To say there are 10,000 tires here now is probably an understatement,” he said.

E&C Gas Station is struggling with approximately 2,000 tires that are waiting for disposal, said Barry.

Illegal Sites
WMA is aware there are likely illegal dumping sites, as well as other small businesses which need to get rid of tires, according to Cornwall.

Some of this information has come from a citizens advisory team, which is in need of more members, she added.

“There may even be some illegal sites that we’re not aware of,” she said. “We’re trying to get community input. We’ll go ahead and take the tires out of there.”

Anyone who has information regarding more tires that need to be removed can contact Cordell Jacobs at 777-3073. Wade can be notified as well.

“Ira has been one of our greatest assets, and we must thank him personally, because I don’t think that he would ever allow anything to go amiss, regardless of whose agency it was,” said Cornwall. “He’s been really, really helpful, and I’m sure if someone brought it to his attention, he’d let us know.”

Puerto Rican Assistance
WMA received a great deal of assistance from Carlos Ortiz of Puerto Rico, who ships approximately one million tires per year from Puerto Rico to Florida.

“He has been such a wealth of information,” said Cornwall. “He was the one that turned us on to the logistics, as far as making sure we have more than one place to accept our tires, because these places can just decide to stop taking tires.”

Other companies in Florida which will accept cut tires, in the event that one of the two designated companies stops accepting tires, have been identified by WMA, Cornwall added.

St. John Removal First
The plan for tire removal was originally to be done on St. Croix first, because of last year’s dengue outbreak, but the concerns of St. John residents led WMA to change its plans.

“We were actually going to do it for St. Croix, because the dengue fever shifted the focus over there,” said Cornwall. “It’s funny that St. John, in a cry for help, became a prototype. When St. John came up, we said, ‘let’s get theirs out and see how it works.’”

Business owners who expressed their concerns at the early-March town meeting were, at the time, feeling pressure from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, which threatened to fine business owners if the tires were not removed.

“I truly wish to assure you that the Waste Management Author-ity will take care of the problem,” WMA legal counsel Iver Stridiron said at the meeting. “In the meantime, we’ll talk to DPNR, and tell them in writing what we intend to do.”

WMA followed through on its promise, said Barry.

“Waste Management communicated to DPNR that it is their responsibility to remove the tires,” she said. “They (DPNR) haven’t been harassing us. I do want to get the tires out – I really, really do.”

Town Meeting Soon Come
WMA will conduct a town meeting in the near future to discuss solid waste and wastewater issues, said Cornwall.

“We need citizens involved in the Citizens Advisory Commit-tee,” she said. “Look forward to a town meeting, where we’ll talk about how citizens can help us by joining the committee and having a voice, and telling us what we can do better.”

Those interested in joining the citizens advisory committee should contact Jacobs.