(HELENA) Some Broadwater County residents are raising concerns about a proposal to build a tire recycling facility outside Winston.
A large pile of used tires has accumulated on a property at the end of Muffley Lane. Two Brothers Tires, LLC, a company registered in Belgrade, is applying for a state permit to create a tire shredding facility there.
John Willoughby said he started organizing neighbors opposed to the plan about six weeks ago.
“I don’t think anybody wants a tire recycling facility in their backyard, or in an area that has as much recreation as the Elkhorn Mountains,” he said.
According to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Two Brothers Tires has proposed collecting and storing thousands of used tires on a space of about six acres. Once they collect enough, they will bring in a shredder to process the tires. They will then resell the pieces, which can be used for things like road beds, asphalt and playground surfaces.
If Two Brothers cannot “economically” shred or sell the tires, their application says they will bury them in a dump site.
Willoughby said neighbors have a range of concerns about the proposal, especially if the tires end up sitting on the property for long periods of time. He said property owners downhill of the site are worried about the possibility that some chemicals could leach out of the tires and into the groundwater. He also raised concerns about the threat of a large-scale fire.
“We do not have the fire capabilities, that I’m aware of, anywhere in this state to put a tire fire of that nature out,” said Willoughby. “Tires don’t get put out by water; they continue to burn.”
DEQ has not yet reached a decision on the permit application. Because of that, the agency says the company cannot yet legally store tires at the site. Last week, DEQ sent a letter to Darko and Austin Smilovic of Two Brothers, ordering them to stop bringing tires onto the property until a permit is approved.
“At this point, it’s an illegal dump,” said Willoughby. “We expect it to be shut down and terminated, and not to be licensed.”
If the permit is denied, the letter says Two Brothers will have to remove all tires from the property within 60 days.
Willoughby’s group, the Winston Tire Shredding Opposition Group, has held several meetings to discuss the proposed facility. He said several dozen residents have already become involved.
The opposition group planned another meeting Wednesday evening, at 6:30 at the Big Bull Bar and Grill in Winston. It comes ahead of a discussion of the issue with Broadwater County commissioners Monday at 11 a.m.
“We just want to formulate an informed plan that we can present to the county commission on why this thing shouldn’t be taking place – and quite honestly, hopefully get them to implement some procedures within the county that don’t allow it to go into somebody else’s backyard,” Willoughby said.
Willoughby said his group has been in contact with an attorney, and that if DEQ grants a permit for the recycling facility, they will plan additional legal challenges.
MTN left messages Wednesday, but was not able to reach Darko or Austin Smilovich.