October 4, 2023
By Toby Scofield, Pickerington Online Intern
Do you care for the environment? Do you want to make a better future for your kids, for your cousins, for your friends? Fortunately, you can.
The staff of Walnut Woods Metro Park and the city of Canal Winchester are looking for volunteers to join them in cleaning tires and other litter from Walnut Creek on October 7.
In 2023, volunteers pulled 57 tires from the creek most of which had been dumped in piles.
“We can only speculate that whomever does this does not want to pay the small fee associated with correctly disposing of used tires,” said Mindi McConnell, park manager at Walnut Woods. “Tires are not allowed to be thrown away with the regular garbage or burned so generally they need to be taken to a recycling center which could be an inconvenience to some. Not all tires that we find are newly dumped, on occasion we still find a few white walled tires from the 50’s.”
Tires are bulky and hollow so they would take up a lot of space if added to landfills.
There are companies that for a fee will accept old tires which they recycle into products such as mulch, playground surfaces, fuel and pavement. The staff of Walnut Woods deliver the tires they collect to Liberty Tire at 3041 Jackson Pike in Grove City.
Fairfield County also provides opportunities twice a year for residents to dispose of tires for fee of only $1.00 per tire. Fairfield County Community Action hosts a collection event in April and the Board of Health hosts an event in September.
“Aside from being an eyesore, tires contain oils that can contaminate our water/soils, not to mention harming our aquatic life,” said McConnell.
Rachel Moresea, Environmental Health Director at the Fairfield County Health Department said that tires disintegrate rather than decompose. The resulting microparticles harm soil and water.
A study published in National Geographic found that tire particles make up a significant percentage of the microplastics found in global bodies of water.
According to the study, “the problem with microplastics is that—like plastic items of any size—they do not readily break down into harmless molecules. Plastics can take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose—and in the meantime, wreak havoc on the environment. On beaches, microplastics are visible as tiny multicolored plastic bits in sand. In the oceans (or rivers), microplastic pollution is often consumed by marine animals.”
Tires left on land are also a problem as they create habitats for rodents and harmful insects.
Per the Federal Environmental Protection Agency website, “Each tire in a yard, if improperly stored, can become a breeding ground for thousands of mosquitoes which can carry life-threatening diseases such as dengue fever, West Nile virus and various forms of encephalitis.
The design of tires provides an ideal nursery for mosquito larvae. Tires fill with water after a rainstorm and retain the water as some of the inside areas of the tires are shaded continuously, preventing evaporation of the trapped water. Tires are somewhat insulated and retain heat for long periods of time that speeds up mosquito egg hatching and larval growth. They also collect leaf litter and debris that provides nutrition for the larvae.”
Mosquito bites are the primary way West Nile Virus spreads.
Many local health departments trap and test mosquitoes to see if they are carrying West Nile Virus. Franklin County is responsible for trapping and spraying in the Pickerington area.
“So far, Franklin County has had five positive samples for West Nile virus in the Pickerington area.,” Moresea said. “Fairfield County Health Department had one positive sample for West Nile Virus in Violet Township. FCHD sprays in a one-mile radius from the trap location for all positive samples.”
‘Oh, but I have a really strong immune system’, you say. Are you sure you want to risk it?
One in five people who contract West Nile Virus suffers from fever, headaches and rashes and it could be worse. For one in 150 people the disease can lead to permanent neurological damage and/or death, according to the Ohio Department of Healthcare.
So, if you want to help the environment, or just really, really hate mosquitoes, join the Walnut Creek Cleanup on October 7th. You are expected to arrive by 8:00 AM at 6723 Lithopolis Road, Groveport. The metro park will be providing breakfast snacks.
“Bring old shoes that you do not mind getting wet or hip/chest waders,” McConnell said. “A towel and an extra set of clothes are also encouraged. The water and air temperatures this time of year can be chilly so dress in layers if possible.”
Have a change of clothes for afterwards and wear gloves. This is a creek clean up, so resign yourself to getting wet.
For the future of our planet, I urge you to join this clean up. We only have one planet, and we had better treat it well.