Massive tire pile is no more, and village of Alvo and new recycler look ahead

State regulator says it demonstrates that enforcement, and a willing owner, can lead to success

By: - September 7, 2022 5:00 am
Alvo tire pile

A pile of scrap tires, pictured here in July of 2021, once stretched over a large portion of a scrap yard in Alvo (courtesy Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy)

LINCOLN – A massive pile of scrap tires in a small Nebraska village, which had posed both a dangerous fire threat and a breeding ground for mosquitos, has been cleaned up.

Regulators with the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy affirmed recently that the huge pile of scrap tires — as high as 20 feet tall and containing hundreds of thousands of tires — had been removed at a recycling facility in Alvo, a village of 130 people between Omaha and Lincoln.

Alvo tire pile May 2020
By May of this year, most of the scrap tires had been shredded and hauled away.
(Courtesy of Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy)

“We spent an obscene amount of money, but we made a commitment to clean it up,” said Pete Langer, who took over the business from an ailing father a year ago.

5,000 tons removed

He said that nearly 5,000 tons of scrap tires were shredded and removed over the past year, which was more than had been estimated to have piled up at the facility.

Jim Macy, director of the NDEE, said the case shows that when the agency uses its enforcement authority, in conjunction with “willing people who want to do the right thing,” you can get facilities cleaned up and back in compliance.

Jim Macy
Jim Macy, director of the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy
(Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

The Alvo recycling facility, operated by B-Rose Tire Recycling and its affiliate, LAL Enterprises, had been the subject of months of complaints, as well as orders from the NDEE and State Fire Marshall’s Office to clean it up.

Twice allowable size

At one point, the pile of scrap tires had grown to more than twice its allowable limit of 160,000 “passenger tire equivalents,” a calculation of the car, truck and tractor tires.

A year ago, the operation still hadn’t sufficiently reduced the size of the pile. Langer said that his father, Larry, the former owner, suffered from cancer, which was the main reason the process of shredding the tires and hauling them off to a landfill got so far behind.

Pete Langer, who owns a recycling/diesel truck repair business based in Scottsbluff, said he appreciated that the NDEE was willing to work with him after seeing that he was making progress in removing the tires.

Now, he said, scrap tires that the business collects are quickly shredded for transport to the landfill.

Site visit in May

The NDEE, during a site visit in May, confirmed that all the waste tires “have been removed.”

“It’s cleaned up like you wouldn’t believe,” said Chris Juilfs, the chairman of the Alvo Village Board.

Langer said he’s still deciding how to use the site in the future as part of his Langer Industrial Services, which has operations in Lincoln, Scottsbluff, Colby and Hays, Kansas, and Torrington, Wyoming,

Tires for energy

It’s possible that the scrap tires might be used to generate electricity in Wyoming, he said, where such use is permitted.

Alvo has been jolted by a series of problems. Alvo’s village clerk pleaded guilty four years ago to embezzling $105,000 in town funds. Two years ago, criminal charges were filed against the fire chief, accusing him of using $18,000 in fire department money for personal expenses.

Juilfs said that the village is making progress in climbing out of debt, and is expected to get some restitution soon for some of the stolen funds.

“We’re moving forward,” he said. “By next year, we will have money to make improvements to our roads and our water system.”

The NDEE, which by law seeks to obtain voluntary compliance with regulations before seeking fines or sanctions, continues to work on a higher profile, clean-up project — to get contaminated waste removed from the site of the former AltEn ethanol plant near Mead. It has been working with an environmental firm hired by a group of seed corn companies to accomplish that.

The facility, unlike other ethanol plants, had utilized expired seed corn coated in pesticides to produce ethanol, leaving behind a reeking byproduct and pesticide residues that have been found in nearby streams and at least one home.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.

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