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Westmoreland Cleanways tireless in cleanup efforts

| Thursday, May 3, 2012, 8:57 p.m.

Some tires give new meaning to the term "off-roading."

More than 1,000 tires, found at that bottom of a ravine in Leechburg, haven't been on the road in decades. They've been filled with water, mud and even the occasional raccoon, for years.

That's where Westmoreland Cleanways comes in. At 8 a.m. March 31, volunteers began hauling hundreds of tires up the steep hillsides of Indian Hill Road.

The water, mud and raccoon stayed.

The nonprofit group filled truckload after truckload of tires for proper disposal with Allegheny Tire Co. The result is a cleaner watershed and less risk of West Nile virus and fires with hazardous gases, according to Rob Cronauer, watershed specialist.

The private property was once a dumping ground for a tire company, but the current owners stopped the practice years ago. When the dump was found, the owners were notified that they had to dispose of the tires.

"I didn't like the idea that we had to pay for them (the tires) to get out," said Vicky Burkett, owner of the property. "Thank God for these folks who got us the grant."

The cleanup was funded by a Growing Greener grant from the Department of Environmental Protection.

Although the cleanup was conducted on private property, Cronauer believes the tires are the responsibility of the entire community.

"It's not just one person's tires," said Cronauer, of the Westmoreland Conservation District. "The problem with a dump is that it grows. It just grows and grows."

Nancy DiGuiseppe, program director for Westmoreland Cleanways, said the tire collection was "a little overwhelming."

"I didn't expect this many tires," she said. "I'm just so glad for all the volunteers."

About 30 people from Westmoreland Cleanways, Allegheny Tire, Allegheny Township, Outside In School of Experiential Education in Greensburg, and the local area came to help.

Jonathan Hladney, a fifth-grader at Fairmont Elementary, woke at 7 a.m. that Saturday to start on his second year of tire cleanups. He said most of his friends were still in bed.

"I'm here for the fun," he said.

At the end of the day, 1,273 tires had been pulled from the ravine.

Lorrie Quadro, executive director of Westmoreland Cleanways, wrote in an e-mail that at the end of the day, she could see the stream coming back to life.

"We found all kinds of interesting little critters swimming around," she wrote. "We couldn't have pulled this event off without the outstanding help we received from all the volunteers who really dug in and gave it their all!"

Karen Hohman, of Allegheny Township, said the area has been supportive of their efforts.

"It's our neck of the woods," she said. "Dumping in this area is definitely a thing of the past."

This project is just the start of Westmoreland Cleanways' events throughout the spring months.

Area youth groups can take part in the Fugitive Tire Program. Each group can make as much as $150 as a "bounty" for tires collected in rural areas throughout Westmoreland County. The program will be held each Saturday until the end of April.

Tire Collection, Battery and Appliance Recycling events are planned throughout the spring. From 8:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Saturday, Westmoreland Cleanways will collect at the Norwin Hills Shopping Center parking lot. At the Vandergrift Community Day, April 21, collections will be held from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

On April 28, at the Carmike Plaza on Route 22 in Delmont, collections will run from 8:30 a.m. until noon. The following week Westmoreland Cleanways will collect at Keystone State Park from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. The group will come to Westmoreland Fairgrounds for its final collection from 8:30 a.m. until noon June 2.

In addition to collections, Compost Workshops are being held at the Westmoreland County Center for Conservation Education in Greensburg from 9 a.m.- noon May 19 and from 9 a.m.-noon June 16.

For more information on these programs, call Westmoreland Cleanways at 724-836-4129.

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