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Port of Wilmington scrap tire yard uncleared nearly a year after DNREC order

 The scrap tire yard at the Port of Wilmington in spring 2023.
Simeon Hahn
Delaware Community Benefits Agreement Coalition
The scrap tire yard at the Port of Wilmington in spring 2023.

Port of Wilmington operator Gulftainer is working to comply with a nearly year-old order from DNREC to clear thousands of scrap tires on the port's property at the former Chemours site in Edgemoor.

Delaware’s Office of the State Fire Marshall first alerted DNREC of the growing scrap tire operation at the Port of Wilmington in December 2021. An inspection revealed that the scrap yard’s operator, a small New York-based wholesale company called S&A Marketing, did not have necessary permits.

DNREC first began requiring permits for large scrap tire yards in 2017. University of Delaware Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Jennie Saxe says the environmental hazards posed by scrap tires have drawn attention from regulators.

“They can continue to accumulating standing water, mosquito breeding – so there’s a public health side to it," she said. "And fires in tire stockpiles are difficult to put out and dangerous.”

Simeon Hahn, a former Regional Resource Coordinator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who visited the scrap tire yard this spring, says the risk of a fire is especially serious given the site's proximity to Wilmington. "The fumes from a fire could contain hazardous heavy metals — nothing that people should be breathing," he said.

S&A Marketing continued to accumulate tires — and use a lot at the Port of Wilmington as a staging area for a type of fuel derived from scrap tires — despite an initial cease-and-desist order from DNREC.

Last June, DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin issued a new order directing both S&A Marketing and Gulftainer, the company managing the Port of Wilmington, to clear the scrap tire yard within a month.

Since then, the two businesses have accumulated nearly $115,000 in noncompliance fines.

For now, the Diamond State Port Corporation — which oversees the state's agreement with Gulftainer to allow the company to operate the port — says it is aware of the challenge.

"The Diamond State Port Corporation has made it clear to Gulftainer that the scrap tires at Edgemoor should be removed immediately by the responsible party," said Corporation Executive Director Eugene Bailey.

He adds that Gulftainer has gone to court to obtain legal ownership of the tires to expedite the process of clearing them. The company would also need to identify a licensed solid waste transporter to move the tires, which could be a more significant expense than the noncompliance fines.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.