Heavy machinery sits on the property at 11150 Applewhite Rd where 19,000 tons of tire material was removed.
Heavy machinery occupies the property at 11150 Applewhite Rd. where 19,000 tons of tire material was removed. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

A car auction company that purchased an abandoned tire dump site on the Southside that long frustrated state and local officials has removed all tires from the property.

The last load of tires left the 36-acre former Safe Tire Disposal site at 11150 Applewhite Rd. on Tuesday, said Randy Racine, associate general counsel of Copart, which also owns the neighboring property, in an email.

The change was obvious during a visit to the site Thursday. Mounds of tires and tire scraps once visible from the property’s entrance on Applewhite Road are no longer there.

Andy Adams, regional manager with W&M Environmental Group, the company contracted with to do the cleanup, said his staff removed 19,000 tons of tire material. That’s roughly the weight of 1,520 school buses.

That took 985 truckloads, some with 100-yard trailers and some with 65-yard trailers, Adams said.

After trying to find a way to recycle the tires, W&M staff ended up taking them to a landfill, Adams said. He said the company had permission from environmental regulators and cement company Cemex to move the tires to a nearby Cemex facility to be used as fuel, but “we just couldn’t make the economics work out on the transport for recycling.”

“The person who figures out an efficient and cost-effective reuse for these tires will be busy for a long time,” Adams said. “It’s not for a lack of trying and free resources that no one can solve this puzzle. It’s a really hard puzzle.”

At one point, the number of tires left on the site reached 2 million, creating concerns of a fire hazard and mosquito breeding ground. The tires have been there since at least 2005, according to state records.

State environmental regulators and the State Attorney General’s office had made several attempts to get the site’s previous owner, Eclipse Renewables, to remove the tires, but were not successful.

Copart, an international company based in Dallas, announced in January it had purchased the property to make room to store more vehicles for auction. The company contracted with W&M Environmental Group to do the cleanup, Racine said.

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Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.