Boy Scouts to round up discarded tires in Allegheny Township

Liz Hayes
| Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 1:26 a.m.

Westmoreland County Boy Scouts will be paid “bounties” to round up an unlikely band of fugitives in Allegheny Township this month.

The Scout groups will be participating in the Fugitive Tire Roundup, a program Westmoreland Cleanways sponsors every spring.

“We recruit youth groups to go out, each Saturday in April, and they clean up illegally dumped tires and take them in for proper disposal,” said Ellen Keefe, the environmental organization's executive director.

Keefe said upward of 1,000 tires have been dumped over the years into a ravine off South Gosser Hill and Lower Tunnel Hill roads in Allegheny Township, just outside Hyde Park.

During a heavy rainstorm last summer, many of the tires were washed through some residential yards and across South Gosser toward railroad tracks and the Kiski River. Keefe said PennDOT had to repair the road and the state Department of Environmental Protection was called in to check out the tire pile.

“There was nobody they could trace the tires back to,” Keefe said. “There's nobody to blame — these tires have been there for years.”

Patty Lyle can attest to that. She said many times tires were washed onto the road near the property she owns on Lower Tunnel Hill, backing up storm drains and at least once causing an accident on South Gosser as two cars tried to avoid tires.

“There's been times I couldn't get up my street, with the water and tires,” she said. “It leaves quite a mess.”

She also worries about potential hazards for passing trains if tires reach the railroad tracks.

Keefe said tire dump sites often began decades ago before there were laws regulating tire disposal: “Years and years ago, if someone had unwanted tires, they'd throw them in a pile somewhere and walk away.”

Westmoreland Cleanways began working with the DEP in 1995 to clean up tires throughout the county. In almost two decades, Keefe said they've removed about 60,000 tires from the environment.

The organization recruits youth groups — from Scouts, churches, schools and environmental clubs — to pick a weekend in April and spend a Saturday morning clearing as many tires as possible. The groups are paid 75 cents per tire for a maximum of 200 tires, though Keefe said groups usually collect more tires than they're paid for.

Usually the groups suggest a dump site in their community, but this year, the groups all were asked to work on the Allegheny Township tire pile.

Keefe said Boy Scout troops 205 from Murrysville, 230 from Harrison City and 208 from Delmont-Export each will spend a weekend at the site this month, beginning Saturday.

Keefe said they're not sure whether all of the tires will be collected this year; it may be a two-year project. She said Westmoreland Cleanways will spend $1,500 to $2,000 this month on the cleanup, between the bounties and disposal fees.

Township Manager Greg Primm said he appreciates the organization's efforts. Westmoreland Cleanways has helped remove garbage and tires from an illegal dump site near Indian Hill and Bagdad roads, and will be helping to remove railroad tires along the Tredway Trail this spring, Primm said.

“I've been here 5 years, and Ellen goes out of her way to help Allegheny Township,” he said. “She pays attention to us.”

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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