ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A.B. Swanson doesn’t like prying eyes.
”I carry my pistol in my right hand,” Swanson said.
The 65-year-old wants to be left alone and that’s why he lives in the middle of nowhere on this dusty plateau, southwest of Albuquerque.
”Because I don’t have none of these bastards around me,” Swanson said.
So you can imagine his reaction when the state and county environment folks came knocking about two and a half years ago.
They say Swanson has been hiding a massive tire dump on his 40-acre property. The county estimates this could be the biggest illegal stash in the state.
There are tires dumped along his property line, in arroyos and the biggest concern the state says hundreds of them are submerged in the Rio Puerco.
“It’s a violation of local and state law. There are law regulating scrap tires and how they should be hauled and disposed of,” Bernalillo County Environmental Health Manager, George Schroeder said.
The county got an $8,000 grant to see how big of a problem this is, what impact it’s having on the land and the best way to clean it up. The study concluded there are at least 380,000 tires on Swanson’s property. But because so many are under water, that estimate might be conservative.
So where did they all come from?
Swanson admits people pay him to unload their used tires.
”I charge them 25 cents…one tire. At the dump they charge them dollars,” Swanson said.
And he says he has no plans to slow down.
“I’ll use every tire I got here plus more,” Swanson said.
Swanson said he has two uses for the tires. First, he’s building a rubber tire fence around his 40 acres to keep people from stealing his stuff.
“I’m missing three semi-trucks, a farm tractor, two trailers and $12,000 worth of steel,” Swanson said.
He said when he bought the property in the mid-2000’s and the zoning department said he could build a fence.
“I told them what I was going to do and they said we don’t care you do out there,” Swanson said.
Swanson said he’s also putting tires in the arroyos and against the banks near the water for erosion control.
Last year the court ordered that Swanson apply for permits and submit an engineer approved plan to the county to prove beneficial use of the tires.
He didn’t do that. So now he’s out of time.
But the state doesn’t have the money to clean it up and put a lien on the land.
“It would cost a million dollars roughly speaking to clean up all these tires,” Schroedoer said. “My budget it about $3 million. What programs and services and staff and everything do I have to sacrifice in order to clean up this one problem on this one property.”
Swanson says he will re-structure his fence and pull the tires out of the water.
“oh I’m going to get them out, I’m going to take them out,” Swanson said.
But he stands firm that he doesn’t need permits to use the tires.
In fact he has bigger plans for more tires including a horse corral and a mile long horse racetrack.