Clean sweep: City residents come out to recycle tires

City employee Rodolfo Guzman reaches out to catch a rolling tire Saturday morning at the city of Brownsville's Tire Collection Day event in Tony Gonzalez Park. The collection event allowed residents to drop off old tires for recycling to prevent public health and environmental hazards in the community.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

By DENISE CATHEY, Staff Photographer

It’s a bright and cold Saturday morning in Tony Gonzalez Park as city of Brownsville employees wait for the periodic rumble of pickup trucks pulling into the parking lot, their beds loaded with old vehicle tires for disposal.

When a truck pulls up, city employees Rodolfo Guzman, Reymundo Sanchez and Joseph De La Garza move with brisk efficiency to form an assembly line from the vehicle to the dumpster, passing each tire quickly along to be stacked inside.

After making a periodic sweep of the district, City Commissioner Nurith Galonsky and city employee Roberto Rangel pull up in a city truck loaded with 30 tires the pair found after less than an hour, dumped in a nearby alley.

“ ho knew that we were going to find 30 in just one alley? I’m sure that if we keep going we can collect a whole lot more,” Galonsky said.

The tire collection is part of an event held by the city of Brownsville to help residents dispose of up to four unwanted passenger vehicle tires at three locations throughout the city. Residents were free to drop off their tires at Tony Gonzalez Park, Joe & Tony Oliveira Park and the city of Brownsville Landfill.

While unwanted tires might seem like a small annoyance, like a falling domino they can cause a cascade of problems for residents. Of them, the biggest concern is that tires can provide the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases like Zika virus, West Nile virus and Dengue fever.

“They collect water which then breeds mosquitoes. They are starting to do outreach for Zika virus because it is a concern,” Galonsky said.

With nearly a month left of hurricane season, the tires also pose a serious flooding and debris hazard when improperly disposed of.

“They end up in people’s backyards or they dump them in drainage ditches. That’s a hazard because they can create flooding problems because they won’t drain properly if there’s some kind of obstruction like a tire,” said Carlos Lastra, the Street and Drainage Manager for the city of Brownsville Engineering and Public Works department.

“It also just doesn’t look nice either,” Galonsky said.

In past events Lastra estimates that they’ve usually received anywhere between 500 to 1,000 tires from residents. After they are dropped off, the tires are shredded by a machine to later be recycled.

While this was only a single day event, Galonsky is hoping that events like these for residents to help their community will happen more often going forward. “It’s an easy way now with COVID-19 for people to do their part and help clean up the city,” she said.