Andover council reluctantly approves tire storage

by Eric Hagen
Staff Writer

Hanson Boulevard in Andover will get a bituminous overlay from 161st to 181st avenues this summer. To make the road lighter and relieve the stress on areas that are settling due to mucky soils, Anoka County plans to utilize a shredded tire base in a couple of areas, according to County Engineer Doug Fischer.

The Andover City Council on a 4-1 vote approved a conditional use permit for these shredded tires to be stored on a private property until they are placed in Hanson Boulevard as road base for a late spring to early summer of 2012 bituminous overlay project. Photo by Eric Hagen

The problem the Andover City Council has is nobody informed it that the shredded tires would be stored on a property abutting the east side of Hanson Boulevard, just north of 161st Avenue. Despite its unhappiness, the council on a 4-1 vote approved a conditional use permit (CUP) to allow the tires to be stored there until July 1. This date is the county deadline for the road project.

Councilmember Julie Trude said she could probably not find a worse place in the city to place these tires, so she voted against North Pine Aggregate’s CUP application. A 66 foot natural gas pipe easement goes through this site and there are some nice estate homes nearby. There are no are fire hydrants at the site, according to Fire Chief Dan Winkel so water would have to be transported in if the tires started on fire in order to create a foam solution that could put out a tire fire.

Winkel said a worst case scenario would be wind blowing smoke from a tire fire to the south because even more people would have to be evacuated. Oak View Middle School, Andover Elementary, the Andover YMCA/Community Center, Andover City Hall and the public works building, Sunshine Park and shopping centers are amongst the heavily populated facilities not too far south from the tire storage site.

“All it takes is some goofy kid with a can of gasoline to cause a heck of a lot of problems up there for us,” said Michael Olsen, an Andover planning commissioner.

Fischer said the county approved a bid in October with the Knife River Corporation for approximately $1.45 million to overlay the road. Within this contract was a requirement that the shredded tires be moved from a county park site in Lino Lakes by Jan. 1, 2012. Knife River subsequently contracted with North Pine Aggregate to move the tires.

Fischer noted that the county wanted the tires out of the county park in Lino Lakes but did not specify where the tires should be moved. The arrangement with the private Andover landowner did not involve the county, so Fischer said it was up to the subcontractor to notify Andover and apply for the CUP.

According to the company’s vice president Brent Jensen, he was not aware they needed a CUP to store the shredded tires on this private property.

Councilmember Sheri Bukkila said the city is in a dilemma because it wants to facilitate this work getting done, but there will be a hazardous material stored in a large quantity in a location where the city is not physically prepared to deal with an emergency.

“I find it really hard for a man that has been in business for 20 years to not give any conscious awareness to the impact you’re having as you’re going through this project,” Bukkila said to Jensen. “Now I have to make a certain amount of concessions for you to get through the next six months.”

Olsen raised concerns about how the city would be covered in case there was a large tire fire that demanded a lot of resources both in putting out the fire and the cleanup. City Attorney Scott Baumgartner did not buy the private landowner’s claim that his homeowners insurance would cover the city’s emergency or cleanup costs, so he suggested the council include a sentence in the CUP resolution stating that the applicant takes on all risks and shall indemnify and hold the city harmless from any resulting damages or costs.

The council agreed to add this to the resolution. Besides making sure the tires are stored in a way that meets the fire code such as having them in multiple smaller piles instead of one large pile, the council required a temporary fence to be placed around the tires for extra security.

From one site to another

According to Fischer, the 11,000 cubic yards of shredded tires being moved from the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park to Andover were left over from the Main Street reconstruction project in Lino Lakes that wrapped up about four years ago. Instead of spending a lot of money to send these tires to a processing plant, the county kept this material for a future project.

Centennial Fire District Chief Jerry Streich, whose coverage area includes Lino Lakes, said these tires were stored in a way that did not meet state fire code. Streich said “it was a violation in plain view” because it was within a county park and near busy roads.

What added to Streich’s concerns were that pine trees, tall grass and swampland surrounded the county’s tire storage site in Lino Lakes, and there was no on-site water supply to make the foam solution to fight a tire fire. Streich said it is difficult for a tire to catch fire, but once it does, it takes a very long time to put it out. Andover found this out first-hand when fighting a junk yard’s tire fire in 1989.

“The impact to the county would have been huge because it would have required a lot of resources for a long time,” Streich said.

With this in mind, Streich asked the county to work with him to either make the site as safe as possible or move the tires. Streich said they could have brought in attorneys to demand the tires be moved immediately, but he felt working with the county for compliance was the best course of action.

Trees and grass around the site were cleared to provide a natural wall that would slow the growth of a fire. Streich required the county meet the state fire code by separating the tires into smaller piles to make it more difficult for a tire fire to spread.

Streich said the county told him late last year that it would move the remaining tires by the end of 2011 to a new site. Fischer said moving the tires during the winter was the best solution because the swampy ground at the county park is frozen and site restoration could take place this upcoming spring so the park area impacted is restored to the state it was in before the tire storage required the clearing.

Fischer said the upcoming Hanson Boulevard project was perfect for the county because it should use the remaining tires, according to engineering estimates. Although muck excavation was done when the road was last worked on, Fischer said some areas of the road are still settling. Shredded tires will be used in the road base where this settling is happening. Fischer said instead of having four feet of heavier sand as the road base in these areas, there would be two feet of sand and two feet of lighter shredded tires.

Fischer called the usage of about 3,000 shredded tires a “win-win” because it will keep tires out of a landfill and it will hopefully solve the road settling problem.

A lot of eyes on this site

The Andover Fire Department has one-and-a-half pages of specific state fire code standards that must be met on this site.

The tire piles can be no more than 10-feet in height. The previous pile was 16 to 17 feet high, according to Jensen.

There must be at least 40 feet clear space between tire piles. Tires must be at least 50 feet from lot lines and buildings. Open burning, cutting or welding is not allowed in the tire storage area. Ground vegetation must be cleared in and just outside the tire storage area. A six-foot fence for security purposes will be required. These are just a few examples.

Many other eyes have been on this site. Koch Industries, Inc. required a compacted berm over its natural gas pipeline to ensure its safety. It will inspect the work done on this berm before trucks can drive across it when moving tires.

The Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organization needs to issue a permit for the storage of these tires.

Councilmember Tony Howard lived in town when the big junk yards tire fire happened. He voted yes on granting the CUP for the tire storage site, but stated, “By golly, it had better be the safest spot in Andover.”

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]