EDITORIAL: Old tires pose health hazard

Island County Commissioners followed the public’s will in deciding not to pursue creation of a mosquito control district, but that doesn’t mean the mosquito problem will go away.

Expect one of the big issues this summer to be mosquito control as the West Nile Virus spreads in the Puget Sound area, as it inevitably will. What was a few scattered cases last year will no doubt blossom into a bigger problem this year and in years to come.

It is unfortunate that in a discussion last week, the commissioners didn’t seem to take seriously one of the easiest, most cost effective methods of reducing the mosquito population: simply let people dispose of old automobile tires for free.

Thousands of old tires litter the countryside. According to Tim McDonald, Island County health director, each tire is a mini breeding ground for mosquitoes, and produces some 5,000 mosquitoes during the summer season.

Snohomish County last month struck a blow against mosquitoes by accepting old tires for free one day. Thousands of tires were turned in, translating into a reduction of millions of mosquitoes next summer.

Unfortunately, in Island County, the cost of disposing of a single tire is six dollars. That explains why so many tires are sitting around. Nobody wants to pay 24 bucks to discard an old set of tires, so they lie out in fields and against garages, hatching new generations of mosquitoes each year.

The city of Oak Harbor is setting a great example with its City Wide Cleanup Day set for this Saturday, April 12. The city is accepting a wide variety of old junk, including tires, for free. The effort makes the city a cleaner, neater, healthier place to live. Island County, commendably, gives the city a discount on disposal fees for the day.

A similar “free tire day” at Island County’s solid waste site would rid the county of many old tires, thereby reducing the mosquito population quickly and efficiently.

Waiving the tire disposal fee would cost something, of course, but the payback would be impressive. Compare this proposal to another idea aired last week: hiring a public education employee to inform the public about mosquito control. This would cost $60,000 and, chances are, the person hired wouldn’t pick up a single tire.

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