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City of New Bedford and Massachusetts DEP take action against the city’s tire recycling facilities

The City of New Bedford has intensified its efforts to hold tire recycling facilities across the city accountable for their impacts on surrounding neighborhoods.

On July 8, one such tire recycling facility, Bob’s Tire, located on Brook Street in a dense residential area, was the scene of a major fire. The fire at the sprawling 3.5-acre facility produced thick black smoke which enveloped the surrounding residential neighborhood and threatened to spread to homes located just 70 feet away. In addition to the structural fire in its processing building, improperly stored piles of shredded rubber tires caught fire, significantly exacerbating the danger to the public.

In the wake of the fire, the Fire Department has begun requiring that tire recycling businesses obtain a permit to verify their operations are compliant with state fire rules. The Fire Department is now conducting monthly inspections, and if a violation is found, it may lead directly to revocation of the permit, fines, and court action.

Likewise, an inspection initiative by the Department of Facilities has resulted in the issuance of three nuisance violations against Bob’s Tire in the past four months, including several hundred dollars in fines.

The Department of Inspectional Services has issued correction orders for several areas surrounding another tire recycler, F&B Rubber located on Washington Street; Inspectional Services is also awaiting the results of an independent engineer’s report on the structural conditions of Bob’s Tire processing building. Depending on the report findings, demolition of the structure may be mandated by the City.

The City has also been vociferous in its requests to state environmental regulators that more scrutiny is given to local tire recycling locations. The City’s advocacy was rewarded last week with the decision of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to issue an enforcement action [attached] against the Bob’s Tire facility on Brook Street.

Under a September 20th Administrative Consent Order with Penalty, Bob’s Tire was fined by MassDEP more than $16,000 and is required to address a range of conditions at the site involving asbestos, hazardous waste, solid waste, and fire safety. Among the actions that MassDEP is compelling Bob’s Tire to perform:

  • Immediately implement all appropriate best management practices;
  • Perform an asbestos survey/report on the fire-damaged building, file necessary work plans, and abate all areas necessary in accordance with Air Pollution Control regulations;
  • Register as a generator of hazardous waste/waste oil and obtain an EPA identification number;
  • Compile a listing of all materials in and out of the facility and complete a detailed operations plan including contingencies for supply chain and other transportation-related issues;
  • Develop and submit to MassDEP a Fire Control and Safety Plan that identifies prevention, containment, and extinguishment.

Mayor Jon Mitchell reiterated his commitment to protecting residents that are affected by tire recycling facilities, saying “These facilities detract from the surrounding neighborhoods, and they have regularly shirked the obligations to comply with multiple cities and state code protections, and have only done so when inspections have exposed their shortcomings. I have long directed city departments to prioritize these locations for code enforcement and have advocated for a more proactive state response.”

The Mayor added, “I want to also express my appreciation for Commissioner Suuberg and MassDEP for their willingness to use the robust enforcement tools at their disposal to protect New Bedford residents from the hazards that these facilities represent.” -City of New Bedford.

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