Tire cutter will help break down problem to smaller size

Wrangell will share a tire cutter with other Southeast communities, intending to cut down on the thousands of tires stacked at the dump by making it easier to ship out the smaller pieces.

The borough assembly last Tuesday approved a resolution to share the equipment with the Southeast Alaska Solid Waste Authority. The mobile unit can separate tires from rims and then, using a powerful cutting arm, chop up the rubber into smaller, more easily transportable chunks.

The tires stacked at the landfill are too bulky to efficiently and cost-effectively ship off the island for proper disposal, so the stockpile continues to build.

Public works employees recommended a tire cutter to help solve the problem.

The unit is coming to Wrangell first, said Tom Wetor, public works director. The equipment is due to arrive on the barge this week, along with some spare parts.

Wrangell spearheaded the conversation to buy the unit, said Robert Venables, executive director of the Southeast Conference, a coalition of municipalities and chambers of commerce. The $56,700 machine was purchased with a grant the Southeast Conference applied for on behalf of SEASWA.

Wetor estimates 15,000 to 20,000 tires are at the landfill, possibly more.

"We don't know exactly where the bottom of the pile is," Wetor said.

Working full time, that many tires will take several months to get through, he said. The machine can only operate so fast. Some of the tires are grown into the brush and may take some work to dig out, Wetor said.

Large, heavy-equipment tires will remain at landfill as the machine is too small to chop those.

Wetor anticipates needing the cutter until December, possibly longer.

"We plan to get through as many tires as we can this fall but may have some tires left over that will need to be taken care of the next time we have access to this machine," Wetor said.

That could be a year or two years, as the cutter moves around the other SEASWA member communities of Petersburg, Thorne Bay, Craig, Klawock, Kasaan, Coffman Cove and Hydaburg. It will stay in Petersburg when it's not in use.

The communities agree to share in the operation, maintenance and repair costs of the equipment based on an operation fee of $25 per day. That fee will only apply on days the tire shear is actually in operation.

The shipping cost will be the responsibility of the community requesting the tire cutter.

Southeast Conference will own the equipment.

"We worked collaboratively," Venables said. "Common needs, common solutions. It's a way to address these issues without everyone having to buy their own piece of equipment."

Wrangell hasn't had a good option to deal with tires for a long time, Wetor said. Having access to this equipment will put a dent in the tire pile at the transfer station.

"Tires cannot be shipped in the normal waste stream as full tires tend to float up in landfills," Wetor said. "Once they are chopped into pieces this is not as much of an issue."


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