While a year-old crackdown on illegal tire dumping has resulted in 18 arrests and four convictions in recent months, it is costing the city $500,000 a year to clean up and dispose of the 1,200 or so tons of tires that are illegally dumped in vacant lots across Baltimore, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said yesterday.
Standing before a mound of tires illegally dumped next to an abandoned warehouse on Druid Park Drive in West Baltimore, Curran said the state's Environmental Crimes Unit and the city's Department of Public Works have recently used surveillance cameras to catch illegal dumpers in the act.
In addition to being marred by used tires, other wooded or isolated parts of the city have been turned into minilandfills of trash bags, discarded furniture and other dregs, Curran said.
"These dumpers not only create eyesores, but they jeopardize the health and safety of nearby residents and their children, who risk coming into contact with rotting food, rats or even poisonous chemicals," Curran said.
The illegal dumping also represents a cost to taxpayers, who pay a $1 surcharge on each new tire they purchase, which is supposed to pay for the disposal of old tires.
But Curran said tire-dumping has become a money-making enterprise for some crafty businesses that charge customers the $1 tire-disposal fee and dump their used tires -- usually in the middle of the night -- at abandoned lots like the one on Druid Park Drive.
Investigators have only been able to arrest and prosecute the haulers. One was convicted in July and three were convicted last month. All four were fined $200 and sentenced to community service. Fourteen others are awaiting trial.
But Bernard Pennert, an assistant attorney general with the Environmental Crimes Unit, said the next step in the investigation is to prosecute the companies making money by illegally dumping their tires. Those business owners face $25,000 fines and up to five years in jail.
"We're trying to take our investigation to the next rung," Pennert said.
Residents can report illegal dumping by calling 410-396-8111.
Pub Date: 11/11/97