Partnerships Fuel Removal of Tires From Washington’s Waters

Dropping old tires in marine waters to create habitat was a popular idea before the 1980s. Like other coastal areas around the country, Washington’s waters got their share of these tire bundles, the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) said in a recent post.

The well-meaning placement of tire debris turned out to have unexpected consequences. The bundles of tires broke down under water and scattered across the sea floor, leaching pollutants harmful to fish and other aquatic life.

Mars Mineral

Tire debris gained a new level of attention in a recent study by the University of Washington Tacoma, the University of Washington (Seattle), and Washington State University Puyallup. Scientists discovered that a substance called 6PPD-quinone, which is derived from a preservative used to protect tires from breaking down too quickly, is highly toxic to endangered coho salmon and several other fish species.

There are about 30 known locations where tires have been deposited in Puget Sound.  Removing submerged tires is a complex, long-term issue. It will take several years to complete the tire removal work, which includes securing funds for the project, identifying their locations, arranging site access, coordinating personnel and equipment, and transporting the tires to a disposal facility. Ecology is partnering with the departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Fish and Wildlife on this long-term tire removal project.

Ecology recently awarded Public Participation Grants to two nonprofits who are working on tire removal efforts, Twin Harbors Waterkeeper and Washington Scuba Alliance.

Twin Harbors Waterkeeper (THW) received a grant in 2019 to advocate for waste remediation in and around Grays Harbor. Local residents had placed more than 350 large equipment tires to protect the shoreline from erosion, but the tires ended up narrowing the beach.

THW reported the tires to DNR through the My Coast tool. In May 2022, DNR contracted with the Washington Conservation Corps to dig out 200,000 pounds of tires, clean and haul them for transport to a facility where they will be burned as fuel. Ecology’s Waste Tire Removal Account may pay for disposal costs.

This project highlights how a Public Participation Grant can spark connections and partnerships with tremendous environmental benefits.

In 2021, the Washington Scuba Alliance (WSA) received funding to locate and generate an inventory of 20 tire reef sites sitting at the bottom of Puget Sound.

The organization’s volunteers are combining their expertise onboard the research vessel R/V Phoenix to locate, scan, and quantify almost half a million waste tires. WSA aims to have a complete interactive map of all 20 sites by June 2023. This data will inform the broader effort underway at DNR to locate and remove every tire in Puget Sound.

© Scrap Tire News, July 2022