Piles of scrap tires are scattered throughout the state, many of which are not being handled in accordance with the law, a state audit finds.

But why should you care? They're not only an eyesore, they can also pose significant risks to public safety and the environment, officials say.

In a report released Monday, the State Auditor pointed to dozens of sites in New Jersey where scrap tire piles have fallen out of line with state regulations, including the number of tires received per month and how and where the tires are stored.

Some problems were uncovered on sites that had been remediated in the past. Other piles popped up at new sites, such as junk yards where the operators were not handling their supply properly.

Specific locations were not listed in the audit.

In all, the noncompliant sites were estimated to contain up to 565,000 scrap tires. One of the sites is an approved Class B recycling facility.

The audit noted, however, that the vast majority of scrap tires generated in New Jersey do ultimately arrive at an appropriate end-market. Examples include ground rubber used for mulch and rubber-modified asphalt.

While its severity is a far cry from a level reached in the early 2000s,  state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Lawrence Hajna said the department is working on developing a system to address this re-emerging issue.

Tire piles, when not handled properly, can threaten the surrounding population.

"If a tire fire gets started in one of these piles, they can emit particles that can be unhealthful to people in the area," Hajna said. "Tires are also perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes."

Responding to the audit, a letter from DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said a case manager/inspector has been assigned the responsibility of reviewing and assessing the status of all scrap tire piles in the state.

"The majority of inspections have already been conducted and we are now pursuing compliance at the sites," Martin wrote.

The DEP also intends to arrange for statewide flyovers in order to identify other potential scrap tire sites, he said.

According to Martin's response, the number of tires contained in illegal scrap tile piles went from 3.2 million in 2004 to approximately 560,000 today.

Approximately 300 million scrap tires are generated each year in the United States, the audit said.

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