Three people fined for burning tires and other waste

By: - February 24, 2023 10:46 am

It's illegal in Iowa to burn tires and other waste. (Photo by Andrea Errthum/Iowa DNR)

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recently reached agreements with three people in different parts of the state who illegally burned tires, building debris, vehicles and other waste in the past several years.

Recently published administrative agreements between the department and the men disclosed the following incidents and fines that resulted:

James Whistler, of Van Wert in south-central Iowa, was fined $5,000 for illegally accumulating and burning numerous tires, vehicles and other waste.

The issues date back to September 2017, when someone complained that hundreds of waste tires had been hauled to the site. Less than two months later, the DNR issued a notice of violation to Whistler for improper tire hauling and storage.

In May 2020, someone complained to the DNR that a large fire was ignited on the property in the middle of the night. Investigators later found several burn sites on the property with remnants of tires.

In April 2022, another fire was reported at the site, and DNR officers noted an area that spanned roughly an acre had been burned. They found remnants of about 75 truck tires, two vehicles, mattress springs, railroad ties, an appliance, cans and other metal items.

In January 2023, Whistler started to properly dispose of tires that were still on the site. He provided receipts to the DNR that showed he had hauled away 71 semitrailer truck tires and 158 auto tires at the cost of about $830.

Later that month, Whistler reached an agreement with the DNR that imposed the $5,000 fine, with the caveat that it could be reduced to $100 if he properly disposes of the rest of the tires on the site by May 1.

Mike Pope, of Clear Lake in north-central Iowa, was fined $3,000 for burning an old house and corn crib north of the city near Interstate Highway 35.

In June 2022, a deputy sheriff noted thick, black smoke coming from a fire of building debris and a large pile of tires.

Pope told the DNR he had been hired to demolish the house and burn it, which is illegal. Building debris must be taken to a landfill.

Pope said the house still contained appliances and that no asbestos inspection had been done before burning the corn crib. Those inspections are required before demolitions to prevent asbestos fibers from being released into the air. The fibers can cause various ailments if people inhale them.

A DNR officer noted what appeared to be remains from about 30 tires in the burnt building debris.

The DNR issued a notice of violation to Pope for open burning and asbestos violations. It levied the fine early this month and required him to dispose of any remaining debris in a landfill within 30 days.

Thomas Stevenson, of Maquoketa in eastern Iowa, was fined $4,500 for using tires to accelerate a tree-debris fire on his property in December 2022.

The owner of the company he hired to clear trees from the property was fined the same amount last month.

Stevenson told the DNR he didn’t know it was illegal to burn waste tires.

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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.