DURYEA — Years of cleanup are finally coming to an end where more than 100,000 tires once burned.
After 22 years and nearly $1 million the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says the mess left behind in Duryea is almost gone.
The state says it took over this massive cleanup project because the owner of a tire recycling business went bankrupt after the arson.
Contractors using excavators have been busy removing the tires left behind at near the Coxton rail yards in Duryea.
Almost 23 years ago a massive fire burned there for three days, when someone set a fire at a tire recycling business.
“You can remember the smell. And like I said, the black smoke was black as black could be,” recalled Jim Moran.
Moran now lives in Scranton but he remembers seeing and smelling the smoke for days when he lived in Duryea in September of 1991.
After that blaze, the tire recycling business went bankrupt and tire recycling laws have changed but hundreds of thousands of tires were left behind.
DEP officials say fines and fees collected from companies that ship and recycle tires helped pay for the cleanup costing nearly $1 million.
“The taxpayers did sort of fund a lot of this, but also the people who haul the tires paid into it as well,” said DEP official Colleen Connolly.
Contractors tell us it’s only expected to take a few more weeks to remove the last remaining burned and abandoned tires, putting an end to this big cleanup project.
“Later we learned about the disease from the mosquitos. We didn’t even know about that in the early days. It’s not just an eyesore, it’s not just blight on the community, it is a serious safety and health concern,” said State Sen. Dave Argall / (R) 29th District.
People who remember the blaze that burned for three days say they’re relieved the final chapter is almost complete.
“I’m glad that its finally done and people aren’t going to have to worry about it now. Because all it takes, you know, is a match and a little gasoline and we could have it all over again,” Moran said.
Records show that three teenagers set that tire fire in 1991 and they were sentenced to probation and community service for the crime.