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County sponsors junk tire cleanup

Forget flowers and cards, this Mother’s Day surprise mom by clearing out all those old tires stacked up in the back yard. The place will look better and who knows, you might be saving her from West Nile virus.

Starting this weekend, county residents will have the opportunity to rid their property of spare tires for dirt cheap, thank to Island County Health and Public Works departments and Waste Wise and Beach watcher volunteers.

While Island County charges $6 each to dispose of tires at the county disposal site, Lori Clark, Island County environmental health specialist, has found a recycling company out of Portland, Ore. that will come to Island County and pick up junk tires for as little as $1.75 for rimless passenger tires.

The tire roundups will be held Saturday, May 8, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Bayview Road shop; Sunday May 9, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Tuesday May 11, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Oak Harbor Road shop, 3149 N. Oak Harbor Road; and Saturday, May 8, 9 .m. to 3 p.m. at the Camano Road shop.

They’re not doing it just out of the goodness of their hearts however. They are hosting the tire roundup primarily to rid Whidbey Island of potential mosquito breeding grounds, and thus reduce the risk of West Nile virus.

Kathleen Parvin, also a county environmental health specialist, said more than 25,000 mosquitoes can hatch out of one unmounted tire over the summer.

On a map of the United States showing the spread of West Nile since 1999, Washington and Oregon are the last holdouts. But it’s a matter of when, not if, the virus will appear in humans here.

“We’re expecting to find it here this year,” Clark said. There hasn’t been any evidence of West Nile virus here since 2002, when a horse and two crows contracted the disease, presumably after being bitten by infected mosquitoes.

Clark said the risk was reduced last year because it was a dry year, with fewer opportunities for mosquitoes to lay their larvae. She noted that natural wetlands are not as much of a problem as tires or other non-natural breeding sites, because wetlands come with natural predators.

“There are no natural predators in tires,” Janet Hall, of the WSU Waste Wise program, said. “A healthy wetland has a balance.”

The virus is spread to humans and other animals by the bite of an infected mosquito. It is not spread by direct contact with infected people or animals. You can’t “get” West Nile virus from someone who has it.

While the risk of getting the virus is low, it’s nothing to mess around with, especially for those over age 50. They are more susceptible to the disease, which can cause severe headaches, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, convulsions, and even death.

According to the national Center for Disease Control, the most severe type of disease a person can get from West Nile virus is sometimes called “neuroinvasive disease” because it affects a person’s nervous system.

Specific types of neuroinvasive disease include: West Nile encephalitis, West Nile meningitis or West Nile meningoencephalitis. Encephalitis refers to an inflammation of the brain, meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane around the brain and the spinal cord, and meningoencephalitis refers to inflammation of the brain and the membrane surrounding it.

West Nile Fever is another type of illness that can occur in people who become infected with the virus. It is characterized by fever, headache, fatigue, aches and sometimes a rash. Although the illness can be as short as a few days, even healthy people have been sick for several weeks. In 2003, 262 West Nile virus deaths were reported nationwide.

While it’s well established that old tires are a breeding ground for mosquitoes, where do all those tires come from?

Mike Teel of Oak Harbor can answer that. He’s cleaning out his late father’s property on Goldie Road, and has so far removed more than 200 tires.

“Dad was a Depression-era packrat,” Teel said. His property on the way to the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station’s Ault Field became a convenient place for sailors to drop off cars before they went on deployment, and many of them never came back for them. Over the years Leo Teel accepted anything people wanted to drop off, becoming an impromptu neighborhood junkyard.

Mike Teel said they have removed close to 200 tires from the Goldie Road property, and another 900 from property his father owned on Silver Lake Road.

Teel and his assistant Pat Sullivan have been hauling the tires to a recycler in Burlington, but the county is now offering a deal with Oregon-based Tire Disposal and Recycling, Inc.

According to Keith Higman, Island County environmental health director, the tire disposal company will pick up tires from property owners with 50 or more tires while they are on the island for the tire roundup. The price is negotiable, he said.

The county plans to hold another tire roundup June 19, 20 and 22 — just in time for Father’s Day.

Bring me

your tires

Times, dates, places and prices for the Island County tire recycling are:

Saturday, May 8, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Bayview Road Shop, 14566 Highway 525, at Bayview on South Whidbey, and Camano Road Shop, 71 NE Camano Drive

Sunday, May 9, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Oak Harbor Road Shop, 3149 N. Oak Harbor Road.

Tuesday, May 11, 9 .m. to 1 p.m., Oak Harbor Road Shop.

Passenger tire without rim: $1.75

Light truck tire without rim: $2

Large truck tire without rim: $6.50

Passenger tire with rim: $3.50

Light truck tire with rim: $3.50

Large truck tire with rim: $16

Tires must be free of contamination and relatively clean. Disposal of up to five tires is free for holders of Solid Waste low income discount cards.

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