Westmoreland groups plan to round up tires as part of annual cleanup
Several groups plan to gather discarded tires throughout Westmoreland County throughout the month, as part of Westmoreland Cleanways annual Fugitive Tire Roundup.
The organization began the roundup about 15 years ago, and has removed thousands of abandoned tires from various locations in Westmoreland County, according to Ellen Keefe, executive director of Westmoreland Cleanways.
“When Cleanways started the roundup 15 years ago, there were piles of existing tires that had been around for a long time,” Keefe said. “We've been working steadily every year, and have seen a reduction in the number of tire piles.”
Ken Koncerak, a Webelos Den Leader from North Huntingdon, plans to take a group of approximately 30 children from Boy Scout Troop 251, Cub Scout Pack 293 and Girl Scout Troop 22062 to search for discarded tires on a site in West Newton, which was assigned by Westmoreland Cleanways.
Koncerak organized groups of scouts to hunt for tires for the last three years, pulling tires from several locations, including North Huntingdon's Braddock's Trail Park, Indian Lake Park and Lion's Park.
“I think finding tires is surprising to the kids, and they take it to heart,” Koncerak said. “Hopefully, this teaches them a positive lesson to try to leave nature better than when you found it.”
According to an illegal dump site survey of Westmoreland County, conducted by PA Cleanways in 2009, there are 310 illegal dump sites in Westmoreland County, accounting for 335 tons of trash. It reported 18 dump sites in North Huntingdon, containing about 34 tons of trash, including 865 discarded tires.
Aside from being unattractive, Keefe said abandoned tires often serve as breeding grounds for pests, such as rats and mosquitoes, and other vermin.
Tires also collect road salt and contain other chemicals, which can contaminate groundwater, Keefe added.
Over time, participants began collecting fewer tires during the roundup, and even eliminated several tire dumping sites, Keefe said.
“A lot of them may be gone and new ones aren't really developing, but we're still finding old piles we hadn't known about before,” Keefe said. “The awareness is there and with this generation, it's becoming routine to properly dispose of tires, instead of throwing them over a hillside somewhere.”
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.