The continued operation of BCD Tire Chip Manufacturing in Hagaman rests on the answer to one rarely asked question: Is a shredded tire still a tire?
The state Department of Environment Conservation is locked in a legal struggle over waste tire storage permits with the company.
BCD is operating on a temporary stay extended Tuesday in state Supreme Court at Fulton County, but the company’s long-term future will be decided by Judge Richard Giardino’s definition of a tire.
BCD Tire feeds waste tires through a shredder, then sells the palm-sized chunks of rubber by the ton to landfills for drainage and gas retrieval. It’s recycling at a basic level, and according to BCD’s attorney, Joe Castiglione, the company has always worked within a basic DEC registration.
According the DEC, however, any entity looking to store more than 1,000 waste tires in one location requires a separate permit. The law states so many tires in one place creates a fire hazard that could cause major environmental harm.
In 2011, DEC inspectors found between 22,000 and 27,500 waste tires at the company’s factory at 16 William St. Only a few were intact and round; most were in huge piles of rubber chips.
“The DEC says my tire-derived aggregate is the same as regular tires,” said BCD President Brian Conlon. “It’s not.”
The DEC brought an enforcement action against BCD in August 2011 but deliberated for months. Finally, in late March, after bringing in an administrative law judge, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens ordered the company to pay $21,000 of a $31,000 possible fine and laid out three courses of action.
According to court paperwork filed April 30 by the Attorney General’s Office on behalf of the DEC, Conlon could apply for a waste tire storage permit, operate while never exceeding the 1,000-tire limit or shut down. Conlon and Castiglione contested the decision, taking the issue to court and receiving a stay to continue operations during proceedings.
“This is a very odd case,” Castiglione said. “This is a company that’s been working with the DEC since 2004. They never had a problem before.”
He said BCD employs 13 people in Hagaman and supplies materials to many area landfills, along with the state Department of Transportation and, in some cases, even the DEC.
Castiglione argued Thursday that the DEC order marks such an unprovoked change in policy that Giardino should throw the whole thing out. He also said the DEC has prevented the company from complying through other regulations.
“There are so many DEC regulations,” he said, “We could comply without having to attempt the very complicated waste tire storage permit, but they’ve stopped us.”
Even so, Giardino’s opinion of tires at a hearing sometime this summer may decide the case. Martens’ order is based on the conclusion that bits of tire equaling the weight of a whole tire are equal to a tire.
If Giardino believes like Conlon, that chunks of rubber are a usable commodity rather than just tires in a fragmented form, BCD will save $31,000 and be free to work in peace.
If not, Castiglione said, the company will be applying for permits in a hurry.