By SCOTT PESZNECKER
Foothills residents who are wary about plans to bury millions of old tires near Tulloch Reservoir can voice their concerns face-to-face with state officials Monday.
Representatives from the California Integrated Waste Management Board will come to Copperopolis to explain proposed state regulations that could someday govern tire disposal at the California Asbestos Monofill.
The open-pit mine 5 miles south of downtown Copperopolis on O'Byrnes Ferry Road is 1,000 feet deep. The mine produced asbestos in the 1960s, closed in 1987, became an asbestos waste dump in 1990 and accepted about 800,000 tires for burial in 1998.
Several Copperopolis residents fear that burying tires incorrectly in the former asbestos mine could result in a catastrophic underground fire, spewing flumes of toxins over Copperopolis or polluting Tulloch Reservoir, a drinking water supply for 1,700 homes.
Residents also question whether contaminants from the tires could leach into the water table and run into the reservoir.
With those concerns in mind, Copperopolis resident Bob Miller said it's imperative that state tire monofill regulations be drafted correctly.
"It's a major milestone for the little guy to be heard at the state level," said Miller, who has paid close attention to the tire disposal plans.
Waste Management Inc., the Houston-based company that owns the 16-million-cubic-yard pit, wants to dump millions of shredded tires and 9 million tons of serpentine rock.
The mine still serves as an asbestos disposal site. About 50 cubic yards are buried each month.
Waste Management officials are seeking a solid waste facilities permit from the state that would allow "inert" materials to be buried in the old mine. Materials are considered inert when they do not leach into the ground.
The state rules to be discussed Monday would apply to tire monofills throughout California. A monofill is a landfill where only one type of refuse is buried.
The first 45-day public comment period about the proposed regulations ended Oct. 21.
California Integrated Waste Management board spokesman Lanny Clavecilla said his agency is going to Copperopolis on Monday because many residents there still have concerns about the regulations.
Clavecilla also said he will request an additional 15-day public comment period when his board meets again Jan. 6.
"An overriding concern with the waste board is public safety and environmental safety as well," Clavecilla said.
Steve Felte, general manager of Tri-Dam Project the utilities district that manages Tulloch Reservoir said his agency will have a representative at Monday's meeting.
"We just want to make sure that they apply reasonable measures to protect the reservoir," Felte said.
The proposed guidelines state:
Tire pieces smaller than 4 inches in any direction cannot make up more than 25 percent of the weight of the tires in the monofill.
No more than 5 percent of the shredded tires can have metal fragments that protrude more than 2 inches.
Disposal of burned tire remains are prohibited.
Shredded tires awaiting disposal must be tested monthly to assure they will not be hazardous if buried.
Groups of shredded tires can be no deeper than 20 feet, no wider than 50 feet and no longer than 250 feet before needing to be separated by at least 2 feet of cover material at the CAM site, serpentine rock would be the cover material.
The regulations also call for the site operator to have procedures in place to detect or react to emergencies, such as a tire fire.