July 27, 2005 – With an estimated 280,000 tires coming into the Virgin Islands every year, and with reports that the mosquitoes spreading dengue fever on St. Croix are breeding in discarded tires, no one debates there is a problem. The Department of Health added 25 more confirmed cases of dengue fever on Tuesday, bringing the total for this year's outbreak to 36.
"Finding out what to do about the problem is why we are here," said May Adams Cornwall, executive director of the Waste Management Authority, to a couple of dozen people Wednesday at the Curriculum Center at Kingshill on St. Croix.
Representatives from Fire Services, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the Department of Health and tire vendors were trying to come up with solutions on what to do with discarded tires.
Various solutions were proposed, although at times it appeared some were working at cross-purposes.
Carlos Zenon, of Zenon Construction, said the DPNR had told him to quit collecting tires because he did not have the special permit required. DPNR said the problem was Fire Services not giving Zenon a fire inspection.
But everyone agreed something had to be done and done quickly. The words "critical problem" were used often, as was the term "ASAP" when referring to a solution.
Health Department Epidemiologist Dr. Eugene Tull said Wednesday's meeting was very appropriate because the day before inspectors from the Center for Disease Control had found dengue-carrying mosquitoes breeding in tires in Williams Delight.
Williams Delight has been classified as one of the hot spots in one of the worst outbreaks of dengue fever ever recorded on the Big Island. (See "Dengue Mosquitoes Breeding in Dumped Tires".)
He said it is imperative that breeding grounds such as tires or other containers that catch standing water be eliminated. He said fogging would not help much because it kills adult mosquitoes and that dengue is transmitted by juvenile mosquitoes.
As for keeping tires out "of the bushes" no one had an absolute solution. Many tire dealers said when customers are told there is a disposal fee for them to keep the tires, customers decided to just keep them and drop them off along the road.
Enrique Rodriguez, of Rodriguez Tire on St. Thomas, said that since a tire belongs to a customer there is no way under the constitution to force that customer to turn over his old tire.
However, others commented it is not only individuals responsible for the dumping of tires. A representative from the V.I. Housing Authority said illegal dumping of tires occurred at areas around housing projects, and the evidence indicated the dumping was done by some "income-generating entity."
Cornwall asked that everyone who knows of illegal dump sites to come forward so a list of the sites could be made. She also asked Tull to tell her the sites the Health Department saw as trouble spots.
Cornwall referred to the possibility of implementing a fee on all tires imported to go to the Waste Management Authority to pay for tire disposal and to clean up dump sites.
Rodriguez said that a better idea would be to implement a $20 fee on all car registrations and a $100 fee on all tractor trailers and heavy equipment registrations.
Zenon emphasized that the solution might lie in recycling tires. He said they could be used as a foundation for roads and they also could be used in erosion and flood-control efforts.
Representatives from St. Croix Renaissance were stopped by Cornwall as they were leaving the meeting early and were asked whether they had any solutions.
They said they had ideas about converting tires to energy, but added, "that is a long discussion for a whole other meeting."
Marcellino Ventura, deputy fire chief, was one of the more spirited speakers. He said his men were constantly coming across "piles of tires" when they were fighting bush fires. He said, "Somebody is responsible." He said the longer the problem goes unaddressed, the worse it will get. He added, "This needs to be put on the fast track."
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