Massive tire fire at Richmond facility prompts environmental, health concerns

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In the aftermath of Tuesday’s fire in Richmond’s North side, community members have raised concerns over how the massive tire fire could impact the environment and their health.

The Environmental Protection Agency says tire fires are serious, expensive to clean up and difficult to extinguish. Tim Cywinski, who is with the Sierra Club Environmental Group, said tire fires release dozens of chemicals into the air, “many of which are carcinogens.”

Cywinski also told 8News that it could threaten the area’s soil and water.

“The chemicals seep into the soil and after it rains, that will run of into our local sources, including the James River, so ultimately this could have impacts on human health and wildlife,” he said.

The Virginia Department Environmental Quality provided an update with 8News after assisting the Richmond Fire Department at the scene. In a statement, the department said Richmond City Hazmat did not share concerns about surrounding areas’ air quality and local waterways would not be contaminated, despite runoff from fighting the fire flowing to the combined sewer system.

The Richmond Fire Dept carries air monitoring equipment to make immediate determinations about safety. At their request, we were on scene to assist.

We spoke with the Richmond City HAZMAT concerning air monitoring and concerns for surrounding areas. Richmond City HAZMAT stated they were monitoring air quality at the scene and did not have concerns regarding surrounding areas based on the path of the smoke, size of the fire and proximity to residents.

We talked the Richmond Department of Public Utilities that runoff from fighting the fire was flowing to the Richmond City combined sewer system which ultimately flows to the Richmond City waste water treatment plant. We determined runoff would not contaminate local waterways.

DEQ Pollution Response and Hazwaste staff returned to the site today to assess what waste materials were left and to gather information concerning the cleanup that is needed. DEQ will coordinate with the current property owner to clean up the site.”

Virginia Department Environmental Quality

Due to the chemicals in the air following the fire, the Virginia Department of Health said Wednesday that people in the area could feel respiratory irritation, their eyes could be irritating them or could experience shortness of breath. The health department said if you have any of the symptoms, they shouldn’t last long.

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