PILOT MOUNTAIN — Over the past several months residents have complained about a smell emanating from the New River Tire Recycling facility, according to Town Manager Michael Boaz.
The facility, located on U.S. 52-Bypass, has been a concern for the community since setting up shop nearly two years ago in the town. However, the latest concern seems to be the smell.
As discussed at November’s board of commissioners meeting the smell seems to be coming from new machinery used to shred tires. Commissioner Kim Quinn stated “It’s bothering neighboring businesses and residents near the facility.”
Public health and safety ramifications were indeed an issue, according to Evan Cockerham, another town commissioner, at the time of the meeting.
After hearing the complaints, the commissioners were faced with whether or not to direct the manager to create a smell ordinance during November’s meeting. Commissioners decided to push the issue to January, after they had a chance to tour the facility.
On Dec. 8, by invitation of the owner of New River Tire Recycling, Ben Bryant, Mayor Dwight Atkins and commissioners toured the facility.
“The owner talked with us about the history of his past locations, his operations, his competitors and his future goals for the business. Considering last year’s fire and community concerns, he wanted the board to see the operations and have a better understanding of the business,” said Quinn.
Bryant, gave a physical tour of the facility which included an office area that was enclosed, an outside roofless staging area and and inside covered building that has the operating equipment, according to Quinn.
“Nearly 99 percent of their operations are inside,” stated Cockerham.
Quinn explained that the outside area staged different piles of segregated ground tire sizes. “Part of this area is where the fire occurred and he showed us what areas where impacted,” she said, speaking of a fire there last January. “He showed us what parts of the roof had been removed and what was left to remove under his current permits.”
Bryant walked the board through the steps of the process from receiving the tires on trucks onto the conveyor and up to the grinder. “We saw firsthand the grinder that receives the whole tire, the misting water that is sprayed on the blades and tire as it enters the grinder and the resulting steam that it produces,” said Quinn.
This particular piece of machinery is what is believed to be causing the stink amoung residents.
Cockerham added at there are five of the grinding machines, one of which is outside.
After this initial step, the tire continues to another conveyor belt to the next phases of removing the metal components of the tire, breaking the tire down into a multitude of sizes dependent on the end customer requirement.
“He has a zero-waste operation so it was interesting to see how even the metal that is removed from the tires are bagged and sent out to thrd parties,” Quinn said. Some ground portions have begun to be used as mulch around the facility, she added
To Quinn, touring the facility, “brought great insight to how the business works and the potential growth that may occur with their operations. Which in turn would mean more growth for Pilot Mountain,” something both Commissioner Quinn and Cockerham stated was a goal in their campaign.
The New River Tire Recycling facility not only employs office personnel, machine operators, managers but also truckers, which impacts other businesses across North Carolina, according to Quinn.
With the current complaints about the smoke and smell, “It was helpful to be there on site while they were grinding so that we could see the steam, not smoke, and smell the odors that nearby residents and businesses are smelling.
“I understand the odor is irritating and it is not the most pleasant, nor most unpleasant smell. I personally didn’t have any problems with being around the odor and steam. But I am also not there every day.” Quinn added that the employees did not appear to suffer any negative effects and they did not wear protective gear for the release of the steam.
Commissioner Linda Needham stated while they were at the facility that she did not smell anything foul. Cockerham, also added he could only smell a strong rubber-like smell, as you would in a tire shop.
The current issue that has been contemplated by the residents, town staff and the board are the effects of particles released during grinding. Are the particles potentially hazardous to the health of residents and the environment? The board has been informed by town staff that the state does not regulate this type of release of particles that occur during the tire-grinding process, according to Quinn.
“Personally, that translates to me that it is either not hazardous or it has not been studied thoroughly for the ramifications.”
Boaz said during November’s board meeting that the state of North Carolina does not consider the smell or steam an air-quality issue. “They don’t regulate smells, they regulate particles of things in the air,” he said.
According to Quinn, the board of commissioners does not have the authority to regulate air emissions and doing so would be an overreach of its authorities, authorized by the General Assembly.
“There is no doubt that open tire fires and combustion of tires have negative impact on the environment and health impacts but at this facility neither of those are part of the operations.”
Boaz has drafted an amendment to the current nuisance ordinance. The biggest change to the ordinance is, “that the board would essentially be able to declare things that are not on the list, and/or hard to define a nuisance.” Boaz, sited anything that would interfere with residents being able to enjoy their home, would fall under this proposed ordinance.
Commission Cockerham stated “After the fire, residents were alarmed and worried about health concerns, we need to work on building trust with the owner and residents.” New River Tire Recycling Facility, “seems to show good will, and willing to work with us,” said Cockerham.
Thursday night, Jan. 12 at 6:30 p.m. commissioners will vote to adopt the new amended nuisance ordinance for the town.