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2014 Update, J & R Used Tire Services

J & R Used Tire Services (J & R) had a fire in a large accumulation of tires on-site in June, 2013. Once the fire was extinguished, fire debris and waste tire materials were cleared from the site and the damaged buildings were demolished. This fact sheet has been developed to provide an update on cleanup activities at the site in 2014.

On-Site Progress:

A year after the June 2013 J & R Used Tire Services fire was extinguished, progress on cleanup of the site had been significant, however, during the summer of 2014, Illinois EPA learned that residual sooty carbon dust and ash from the site was blowing into the neighborhood, causing problems for some adjacent residents.

Illinois EPA followed up on these complaints by inspecting the J & R site to assess whether more could be done to address dust concerns of the site’s neighbors. On July 10, 2014, the Illinois EPA inspector noted that there were still areas of residual carbon soot remaining on the site. Consultants for the site owner deployed a vacuum truck equipped with exhaust air filtration to clean residual soot from the site; those efforts successfully removed significant amounts of soot with no visible emissions from the vacuuming system. Over 6.5 tons of particulate material were vacuumed from the site by mid-August.

Cleaning the site significantly reduced the source of soot that could blow into the adjacent residential neighborhood. Unfortunately, the fire, itself, caused dispersion of the sooty material, as did wind and weather since the fire. Soot and ash already blown around the neighborhood was not recoverable.

Residential Area Soot Problems:

As residents have noted during efforts to clean their homes since the fire, the sooty material is oily and resists wetting. Combined with its fine particle size, these characteristics make it very difficult to clean up once it is released into the environment. Degreasing agents that could be used for indoor cleanup can be toxic to organisms out in the environment; vacuuming the fine particulates from the community is impractical because the soot is so widely dispersed. This soot will be a challenge as long as any significant portion of the dispersed material continues to be blown around the neighborhood. Now that significant areas of residual soot have been removed from the site, dust blowing from the site should be significantly reduced. If residents continue to experience blowing soot, please contact Illinois EPA.

Once the soot is in contact with the soil it should adhere (adsorb) strongly to the naturally-occurring carbon in soil particles and should no longer blow around the community. Once incorporated into the soil, some biological degradation should also occur. If soot remains a problem during the winter, in the spring home owners may wish to try topdressing their lawns with high-quality compost or topsoil and/or watering their lawns frequently in efforts to bring the soot into better contact with the soil to help speed the soot’s natural soil-adsorption and degradation processes. Once soot is incorporated into the soil, people and pets are also less likely to pick it up on feet and fur and bring it into the home.

Indoors, keeping the environment as free of soot and other particulates as possible will provide the best health protection for residents who are sensitive to fine particulates. Asthmatics are especially challenged by fine airborne particulates and other asthma triggers in the air, so reducing particulates in the home is prudent. As residents have discovered, good housekeeping practices help, such as leaving shoes at the door and immediately cleaning up any soot tracked into the home.

Along with good housekeeping practices, air filtration provided by HVAC systems and window air conditioner units is the best defense against soot in the home. Residents may have additional success keeping the soot out of indoor air by adding electrostatic HVAC filters and individual electrostatic air cleaner units. A U.S.EPA brochure discussing various types of air filtration devices, their functions and features, can be found at: U.S.EPA recommends reviewing Consumer Reports magazine for its assessment of the best products on the market; Hoopeston’s public library should have access to the magazine’s most recent report on electrostatic HVAC and room air cleaner units.

Next Steps:

An environmental investigation was conducted by J & R’s consultant over the course of the summer. The Site Investigation Report was provided to the Illinois EPA on August 11, 2014; on September 16, Illinois EPA rejected the report and noted deficiencies to be addressed. Once the revised report is submitted and reviewed, we will assess the need for any additional investigation and/or technical remedy to address any remaining on-site environmental hazard(s) caused by the fire.

In the meantime, Illinois EPA will continue to refer any complaints by site neighbors to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office so those in charge of the tire fire enforcement case are made aware of any impacts neighbors may continue to experience. However, please note, the State of Illinois does not have the authority to pursue damage claims on behalf of the City of Hoopeston or its residents.

Health Concerns:

Please contact Cary Ware, Illinois Department of Public Health (217-278-5959) with health issues related to soot indoors. Residents may also contact the Great Lakes Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at U of I, Chicago (312-355-9898) to discuss any health concerns related to the soot, both indoors and outdoors.

Dust/Soot Complaints:

Please contact Mara McGinnis, Illinois EPA (217-524-3288) with current off-site blowing soot complaints. Any photographic documentation residents wish to provide should be date-stamped to document ongoing problems since the August 2014 site vacuuming work.