Just on its face it looks like a bad idea: a tire landfill in Paradise Valley. A pair of local landowners there is asking the state for permission to turn 11 acres two miles north of Pray into a landfill that could receive up to 5,000 tires a day until it reaches a maximum capacity of 280,000 tons over some 20 years of operation.
That's a massive amount of tires to bury in the heart of the scenic valley. In an environmental assessment for the project, the state Department of Environmental Quality appears poised to approve the landfill, saying there is a need for another place to dump used tires and that the landfill will pose no health risks.
But the plan - understandably - has some neighbors to the would-be landfill upset.
At the least, the landfill would create truck traffic to and from the site. It also has the potential to create an immense eyesore, and anytime you store huge amounts of used tires, there is the potential for a fire - the kind that could take months or longer to extinguish and create clouds of polluting black smoke.
Granted, we need to find ways to dispose of used tires. And we create a lot of them. Used tires have been ground up and recycled into road, playground and running track surfaces. But the demand falls way short of what's needed to consume the millions of worn out tires we produce every year.
There are now only four disposal sites devoted solely to tires. And that's insufficient to keep pace with what's being produced.
If the DEQ really sees a need for this landfill and believes the risks will be minimal, they still need to devote a higher level of scrutiny to this project than is routine. It must be located where it will be hidden from landowners and visitors to the area. Extraordinary precautions must be taken to ensure no pollutants escape into the groundwater, and the risk of a fire must be absolutely minimized.
Yes, we need places to dispose of used tires. And, until we figure out how to recycle them all, they will have to be dumped somewhere. But this isn't just any old landfill site. And the utmost of care must be taken to ensure it is not despoiled.