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story.lead_photo.caption An estimated 50,000 tires continues to litter unattended private property near Simms, Texas. Photo by Photo courtesy of Bowie County Fire Marshal's Office

SIMMS, Texas — What started out as a count of 20,000 discarded tires left in a wooded area near Simms, may actually be closer to 50,000 according to both Bowie County fire and environmental officials.

This illegal 10-acre dump site of tires just northwest of Simms has grown and continues to be a major cleanup operation for both these offices.

An estimated 50,000 tires continues to litter some unattended private property off Bowie County Road 4152.

Initially, Bowie County Deputy Fire Marshal Scottie Taylor estimated it will take at least two years to clear the property in order to negate both the potential mass mosquito infestation and fire hazard. Now, with this new estimate, Bowie County Environmental Investigator and Health & Septic Inspector David Gibson said the clean-up time could be more like four or five years.

Taylor also initially estimated the potential cost of the tire clearing could reach $100,000 to $150,000.

Gipson said the estimated cost could still be true, depending on the type of tires discarded.

Many of the tires are regular car tires, but the collection also contains of many four-wheeler tires, large transport truck tires and tractor tires.

Earlier this year, Taylor's office received $16,101 in grant money from the Ark-Tex Council of Governments to fund cleanup operations. But Taylor said they will need close to nine times that much money to finish the job.

Gipson said additional money will likely come from fines for illegal dumping collected through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

"This site will remain a priority cleanup site for us, and if it ever catches fire — either by a lightning strike or arson — it could potentially be declared a Superfund site," Taylor said earlier this year. "These tires can be a potential fire hazard in the summer months, but also in the fall and winter months because of the dry leaves and grass. These tires would also give either a good grass fire, or forest fire something extra to burn. Some of the grass out there is now is 6 feet tall."

Gipson also said previously that his office has been able to install cameras near the dump site to help record illegal dumping.

Besides attracting and harboring mosquitoes throughout most of the year, Gipson said that the piles of tires can also attract rats, raccoons and snakes — possibly because tires can hold warmth and serve as a shelter for snakes and other reptiles — even in the cooler months of the year.

Gipson said his office initially became aware of the site in 2016, adding that it grew steadily worse starting in early 2017.

The tires are presently being hauled from the site and delivered to Bar Recycling Company in New Boston, Texas.

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