State Gives Almaguer Deadline for Tire Cleanup
Tire shop owner must comply with state law, says TCEQ
Victor Almaguer, the tire shop owner left holding the bag on roughly 6,000 scrap tires collected from city of Austin vehicles, has until Feb. 8 to comply with state laws governing the handling and disposal of scrap tires, says the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. If Almaguer fails to get his tire business in order, according to TCEQ's penalty policy, he could face thousands in fines.
Since as far back as 2003, scrap tires removed from city vehicles have been moldering on property Almaguer leases in Southeast Austin. Almaguer says he was told to remove the tires by Bill Janousek, Tire Program manager for the city's Fleet Services Division, but that he has not been paid for removing and storing the tires since at least 2007. (Janousek has been placed on administrative leave pending investigation.) According to Almaguer, Janousek told him to remove the tires even though he allegedly knew that Almaguer was not registered as a scrap-tire transporter, as is required under state environmental regulations.
We first reported on the story in early December, which prompted the TCEQ to open two investigations, one into Almaguer's handling of the situation and another into the city's management of the tires it removes each year from the roughly 5,000 vehicles maintained by Fleet Services (see "Tire Mound of Mystery," Dec. 4, 2009). According to a TCEQ report, agency investigators found Almaguer in violation of four state code provisions governing the management of scrap tires. In addition to citing Almaguer for not being registered as a transporter, TCEQ found that he also failed to register as a scrap-tire storage site or as a scrap-tire generator (requirements for anyone storing more than 500 tires) and that he had also failed to register as a scrap-tire processing facility – since Almaguer actually worked to dismantle some of the city tires he's been storing by cutting the sidewalls and collapsing the tires, he is also "considered a scrap tire facility," the investigators wrote. Almaguer says that he and his attorney are in communication with TCEQ on the best way to resolve the issues at hand and that he's negotiating with the city for removal of the tires, which could take place this week. "We're going through some tough times right now," he said.
The investigation into the city's handling of scrap tires – including whether it has failed to follow state law that requires strict documentation for the final disposition of all such tires (our investigation revealed that the city had failed to properly document disposal of any of its scrap tires since at least 2006) – is ongoing, said TCEQ spokeswoman Andrea Morrow.
Meanwhile, the city still has not released to the Chronicle any written communications among city employees and officials regarding potential problems with the scrap-tire program. Although the city initially told us that our inquiries had raised questions that senior management had "previously not been advised of," the city then appealed our open records request. In a December letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, Assistant City Attorney Cary Grace wrote that the Austin Police Department sergeant "who is responsible for overseeing the criminal investigation has requested that these evidentiary communications be withheld while the investigation is on-going." The A.G.'s ruling is due in mid-February.
Jordan Smith, Fri., Aug. 6, 2010
Michael King, Fri., July 16, 2010
Jordan Smith, Fri., July 2, 2010
Jordan Smith, Fri., July 2, 2010
Michael King, Fri., July 2, 2010
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