Conservation Corps North Bay members tackle illegal tire dump near Hopland, haul away 236 tires
An energetic crew dedicated to keeping the environment litter-free made quick work Thursday of more than 200 old tires dumped on the banks of the Russian River.
Workers collected 236 tires from the site on the west side of Highway 101, about 4½ miles south of Hopland. They'll be at it again in a few weeks at a separate dumpsite closer to town, where more used tires await.
Working under a Cal Recycle grant with permits allowing them to haul waste tires en masse, nine youth corps workers and four staffers toiled about two hours to haul the tires up a muddy hill from a terraced embankment just above the river's edge.
Using a winch to drag some of the heavy tires up the steep rocky slope and a relay line to pass others hand to hand along a slippery path, the crew cleared an area used repeatedly as an illegal dump site.
“I'm so happy,” said Chris Brokate, the Clean River Alliance founder and executive director who first found the tires. “It's so good to see something like that come to an end.”
Brokate discovered the tires in mid-September off a short, paved turnoff near Pieta Creek. He was checking the location because it had been used as a dumping site intermittently in the past, mostly for old refrigerators, furniture and household trash.
Brokate was stunned to see the volume of tires jumbled amid the brush beneath an oak tree. Many had commercial stickers randomly slapped on them, as if just removed from new tires during replacement at a shop.
A similar discovery had been made two weeks earlier, just north of the well-known green bridge about a mile south of Hopland, when a member of the Ukiah-based PacOut Green Team volunteer group was scouting for weekly cleanup sites and came across several hundred abandoned tires there.
Those tires also were rimless, and many were marked, as if to show where they were damaged. Some also had stickers slapped on them as if they had just been taken off new tires and put on the old ones before they were discarded, PacOut chapter leader Chris Ostrom said at the time.
The two men and others have speculated that a small tire shop owner who could not afford or did not want to contract with a state-licensed tire hauler made some other arrangement that resulted in the tires being dumped near the edge of the river.
The practice of discarding tires in the flood plain is especially concerning because the tires contain toxic materials, including heavy metals and potential carcinogens.
Mendocino County Sheriff's Capt. Greg Van Patten said Thursday that the case remains under investigation. Detectives have good leads but have experienced interruptions that prevented them from making further progress, he said.
It's not the first time, and it won't be the last, that members of the youth Conservation Corps have confronted illegal tire dumps in the woods of the North Coast. But their supervisors said they were woefully impressed by the extent of the mess.
Usually, they're called to collect 10 or 12 tires, said Brandon Benton, Zero Waste Program coordinator for the San Rafael-based organization.
“This is a bit extreme,” he said.
But Mike Anderson, lead supervisor for Sonoma County, said his crew was recently working a tire dump off Hot Springs Road near Cloverdale and Lake Sonoma where some of the tires were so far into a gully that he had to leave them for a county crew. By the time the county workers got out there, however, even more tires had been dumped, representing what he thinks may be common practice at other places in Sonoma County.
“I wouldn't be surprised if we went back there and there were more tires,” he said.
Conservation Corps North Bay is among several organizations that hold free collection and recycling events for electronic waste, tires, mattresses and other items to keep people from disposing of them improperly.
Upcoming tire amnesty events include ?one this weekend in Bodega Bay from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, allowing residents to drop off old tires free of charge for recycling.
The event will be held at 1445 Highway 1, across the highway from the Bodega Bay Grange.
A similar event will be held from Tuesday, Feb. 25 to Saturday, Feb. 29, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, at the Monte Rio Community Center, 20488 Highway 116.
No tires will be accepted from commercial businesses at either event.
No more than nine tires will be accepted per vehicle. No bicycle tires or tires over 48 inches in diameter will be accepted.
For more information go to ccnorthbay.org/events/ or call the Conservation Corps North Bay at 415-454-4554.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.