2011-11-25 / Top Stories

Local Man Hit For Tire Spire

By Howard Schwach

A Far Rockaway man, who admittedly did not even know that he had inherited a South Carolina property, has been charged with housing a sprawling pile of hundreds of thousands of tires that isn’t easy to spot from the ground, sitting in a rural clearing on the property, accessible only by a circuitous dirt path that winds through thick patches of trees, but officials say can be seen from space.

To add to the mystery, no one knows how all those tires got there, or when.

County records show, however, that the property is owned by Michael Keitt Jr. of Far Rockaway. Local officials said he was one of several heirs to the property, all of whom live out of state, and admit that Keitt might not even know that he owns the property or what is piled up on the land.

Sources say that the discarded tires are piled near Elloree, S.C. The tires started piling up on county land in South Carolina, growing to a mound of about 1 million tires covering several acres of land.

Authorities have charged one person in connection with the mess of roughly 250,000 tires, which covers more than 50 acres on satellite images. And now a Florida company is helping to haul it all away, but they declined to name the person charged or where that person resides.

Litter control officer Boyce Till said he contacted the local sheriff and state health department, which is investigating who had been dumping the tires. But the worst possible penalty that could be imposed locally? A single $475 ticket for littering.

South Carolina retailers charge motorists $2 for every new tire they buy, which helps pay for the cleanup and recycling of old tires.

For now, a Jacksonville, Floridabased tire processing company is working to clear the pile.

Tricia Johnson, owner of Lee Tire Company, Inc., said a property owner called her for help hauling off the material. So far, Johnson said between 10 and 15 tractor-trailer loads of tires have been shipped to her Florida facility. There, they will either have oil and steel extracted from them, or they will be shredded and made into tire-derived fuel, which Johnson said burns more cleanly than coal and is used by paper mills.

Johnson said she has waived her usual fee and is charging the property owner only for transportation costs. She hopes to have all 250,000 tires processed by early 2012.

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