Maquoketa company fined for burning tires along with trees

By: - February 10, 2023 5:15 pm

Tires were used as fuel to burn trees north of Clinton in December. (Photo courtesy of Iowa DNR)

An eastern Iowa company was fined $4,500 for placing waste tires among tree debris to hasten its burning in December, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Someone reported on Dec. 5 a sudden accumulation of tires and a subsequent fire in a rural area north of Clinton near the Mississippi River, DNR records show.

A DNR officer who responded to the report saw dark smoke emanating from a stand of trees and talked to the property owner, Thomas Stevenson, who said up to 10 tires had been burned.

It’s illegal to burn tires in Iowa. Their fires emit toxic chemicals and can leach oil into the ground.

“Open burning of tires damages air quality and can cause significant acute and chronic health effects,” the DNR said in a recent administrative order that levied the fine.

An excavator was used to pile tree debris and tires. (Photo courtesy of Iowa DNR)

A Maquoketa Company, Brandenburg Drainage, was knocking down trees and burning them as part of a creek stabilization project to help with water drainage in the area, said Anthony Kerker, a DNR environmental specialist who investigated the incident. Many of the tires had been transported to the site from a nearby dairy farm.

On Dec. 6, someone reported that more tires were burning on the property. A Brandenburg employee who was operating an excavator to pile the debris and tires told the DNR “he thought it was legal to burn tires if they originated on the property,” a DNR report said.

Stevenson, the property owner, also said he assumed it was legal.

Kerker said up to 30 tires might have been burned. Those that remained on the site were removed from the property.

The DNR issued notices of violation to Stevenson, Mike Burken of Blue Hyll Dairy and Joe Brandenburg, who is president of the company.

Ultimately, the DNR fined Brandenburg and his company for the illegal burning. Brandenburg could not be reached to comment for this article.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.