Several thousand tons of used tires stored at a scrapyard in Tartu are to be cleared up, following a state procurement. The scrap tires will be used to create alternative fuel sources for customers in Latvia and Finland, as well as Estonia.
The tire dump, in the Raadi district in the northern outskirts of Tartu, had long been a source of contention, with fears of pollution fallout should a fire start there. Now, the state has inked a €1.5 million deal with waste disposal firm Ragn-Sells to dispose of the 14,000 tons-worth of tires. The work is scheduled to be completed by late November.
"The tire dump is a very big environmental risk. If there were a fire, there would be a very high probability that the groundwater would get polluted. In addition, it presents an extremely high health risk to the city of Tartu and residents of surroundin areas," said Antti Tooming, head of the grants and services department at the Environmental Investment Center (Keskuse toetuste ja teenuste osakond).
The by-products from the scrap tires will be sold as alternative fuel for Finnish and Latvian industries, as well as in Estonia.
Many of the tires may have been brought to the Raadi site illegally, Tooming said, or dumped in an illegal manner, which would make the cleanup job more costly. The environment ministry says it may request additional funds from state coffers to tackle the job in conjunction with Ragn-Sells.
Waste management company Rubronic accumulated the scrap tires over a 10-year period, 2005-2015, and had planned to use the raw materials to make rubber mats, but the company went bankrupt leaving the tire dump to sit there for several years.
Ragn-Sells says its process will involve crushing the tires down mechanically; the by-product can be used by Eesti Energia to procduce oil as well as in a drainage layer at a landfill site.
The original NGO, MTÜ Rehviringlus, which was responsible for passing on the tires to Rubronic, is likely to be billed around a million euros in due course in respect of the work, which initially will be taxpayer-funded.
This follows a Tartu Circuit Court decision which found that paying the now-defunct Rubronic for relieving them of the tire loads did not absolve Rehviringlus of responsibility.
Environment minister Rene Kokk (EKRE) stressed that Rehviringlus' activities had not been malicious and the ministry is not seeking to close the firm down, but if an agreement is not reached it might lead to another court hearing.
Editor: Andrew Whyte