ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — It’s probably the state’s largest illegal tire dump and, despite the fact that the mess is on private land, Bernalillo County is now doing something about it.
A.B. Swanson owns a 40-acre piece of land on the far west side of Bernalillo County. His property is right next to the Rio Puerco.
Over the years, he’s collected all kinds of stuff on his land. There are old cars, drums of questionable liquid and up to 380,000 used tires. They line his property and they’re spilling over in the Rio Puerco.
“They’re trying to get me,” Swanson told KRQE News 13 two and-a-half years ago of the county’s effort to get him to clean up his property. A gun-toting man in his late 60s, Swanson has been fiercely protective of his private property rights,
Bernalillo County took Swanson to court to force him to get rid of the tires and the other debris on his land. But the county is tired of waiting.
The county just got a $62,000 grant from the New Mexico Environment Department to start the tire cleanup. The money pays for front-end loaders and a 15-person crew made up of inmates in the community custody program.
“This is a great, great day for us because we’re finally able to start taking a big chunk of this stack of tires,” said Enrico Gradi the Bernalillo County Planning and Development Services Director. “We’ve been able to actually clean up the tires that were embedded in the ground or that have debris around them.”
The tires are a real danger. Two summers ago they caught fire. Thick black smoke spewed into the sky over Albuquerque. The county is worried mosquitoes and rodents will take up home in the tires too.
“It’s a large-scale site that needs a lot of attention,” Gradi said.
Despite his objection to any government official setting foot on his land, Swanson Swanson is cooperating with the cleanup, Gradi said. “He’s certainly allowing us to remove the tires and hasn’t mentioned anything about moving any more on.”
But the cleanup, which could take three weeks, will barely put a dent in the huge stack of tires on Swanson’s land. The $62,000 grant will only cover the removal of about 30,000 tires. Given Swanson’s reluctance to tend to the pile himself, the county thinks grants will likely have to cover the rest.
As for the criticism of using tax dollars to clean up the private property, the county says it just wants the mess gone.
The county has not ruled out taking Swanson to court to help pay for some or all of the effort.