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Release Date: 5/4/1999
Contact Information: CONTACT: Leo Kay, U.S. EPA, 415/744-2201

     SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed an agreement late yesterday with Maricopa County, Pinal County and the Blackwater Industrial Development Corp. to clean up burned tires and remove one million unburned tires from the Blackwater Industrial Park at the Gila River Indian Community near Phoenix.

     The agreement requires the counties to remove the unburned tires from the site to an approved landfill within 30 days and to establish within four months a committee with the Gila River Indian Community to prepare a plan to remove and dispose of the burned tires. The agreement supersedes the EPA order issued in February requiring the tire cleanup.

     "We are pleased an agreement could be reached to take care of this serious environmental hazard," said Julie Anderson, director of the EPA's regional waste division. "As long as those tires remain at the park, another catastrophic fire could break out. Our main concern is ensuring this community can breathe easier knowing the threat of another fire is gone."

      The EPA has issued orders to the parties who did not enter into the settlement agreement.  The orders require the parties to participate in all cleanup activities identified in the agreement and to coordinate with the parties performing the work. These parties include Mohave County, Coconino County, REPCO Waste Recovery, and Colinas Tire Recovery.

     The 10-acre tire piles were stored at the Gila River Indian Community by a recycling contractor who was working for a consortium of Arizona counties in 1994.  After going bankrupt, the contractor abandoned the site.  Since then, the Gila River Community has tried to negotiate with the contractor and the counties to remove the tires.

       On August 1, 1997, approximately two million tires caught fire at the site. The Gila River Indian Community, Pinal County, and the state of Arizona declared a state of emergency, spurring the evacuation of more than 300 people due to air quality concerns. The burned tires continue to smolder today.