After digging up enough tires from their backyard to fill up two tractor trailers, Gary and Donna Boheler are still searching for the bottom of what appears to be a never-ending pit of rubber.
“We still have not hit bottom,” Donna Boheler said. “I really want to hit bottom.”
The tire gully on Lloyd White Road in Clover has become so deep in the months since the couple started a mandatory clean-up that industrial equipment is needed to retrieve thousands of old, worn-out tires that were dumped decades ago.
While the dump predates the Bohelers’ purchase of the property in 1985, county and state officials told the couple in February that they were responsible for loading the tires onto county-provided trailers for disposal and that no additional help was available.
A neighbor, Joey Thompson, was also notified he was responsible for cleaning up tires that fell on his property, even though he purchased his property in 2002.
But once state legislators got involved last month, the county changed course. A process to hire a private company to finish the clean-up is underway.
Eric Rekitt, the county’s assistant public works director, said York County receives a limited amount of state funds for tire removal. The county is required to assess who is responsible for the illegal dumping prior to committing clean-up funds.
In the case of the Clover tire dump, both county and state Department of Health and Environmental Control officials acknowledged that neither the Bohelers nor the Thompsons appeared to be responsible for the dump.
“That’s what made the Bohelers’ situation a little different,” said Rekitt. “That’s probably why we dragged our feet a little bit.”
According to Rekitt, the county expects to spend no more than $15,000 to hire a private company to dig up the old tires, on top of $12,000 already allocated for disposal and hauling costs.
State Rep. Tommy Pope, R-York, said he initially considered loaning his personal tractor to the family until he visited the gully in April and realized how large the site was. State Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, also visited the site.
Pope began coordinating with DHEC and county officials for alternatives to having the couple manually load a minimum of 128 tons of tires. The full amount of tires is currently unknown, as is the depth of the gully.
“We lost so much sleep over this,” said Donna Boheler, who estimated it would take years to fully clean the site, even with the help of volunteer church groups.
In January, the county began cleaning up another, unrelated tire site in Hickory Grove.
“I’m really glad things have worked out the way they have,” said Donna Boheler. “Tommy has stepped up to the plate.”
Pope said he was glad he could help the couple, and thanked county and state employees for working hard to seek an alternative solution.
“They’re just so humble,” Pope said of the Bohelers. He said he hopes those who end up in similar situations will be able to readily seek answers.
“Hopefully now a precedent has been set,” Boheler said.
DHEC officials said they were first notified of the dump through an anonymous tip in September, but they didn’t issue a mandatory cleanup notice to the current property owners until the end of January. In 1991, the state deferred responsibility of tire disposal to individual counties.
Once the tires are removed, the Bohelers and Thompson will have to decide what to do with a large empty gap just yards from their homes that may become unstable during wet weather.