A 'river of tires' piling up in Mora County

Posted at: 04/24/2013 6:32 PM
Updated at: 04/24/2013 6:33 PM
By: Joseph Lynch, KOB Eyewitness News 4

We flew Chopper 4 to Northeastern New Mexico, about 10 miles east of Wagon Mound in Mora County to see a pile of tires scarring the New Mexico high plains. The tires have been piling up for years. And the company that leased the land from the state is to blame.

It's known as the "river of tires" and it stretches for nearly a quarter of a mile. It's estimated that 400,000 tires are dumped here. The best, really the only way to see it, was from Chopper 4.  

"You can imagine 400,000 tires if they caught on fire. You'd have a petroleum fire. You'd have ground water contamination, downstream contamination. And you divert probably tens of millions of dollars from our school kids education to clean up,” says state Land Commissioner Ray Powell.

He characterizes it as the worst case scenario. An incredible misuse of public lands. The lease was for grazing cattle. Putting the tires on state land was never part of that deal.   

The state has spent two years trying to reach a settlement with the Kansas City based company that leased the land. Powell says an agreement has been reached. The land will be cleaned up and he says the state will actually make money. Money that will go to the New Mexico Public Education Department. even though the deal is a long time coming. The state and Powell hopes it sends a message: Those who lease public lands for grazing better be using it for that purpose.  

"You just don't trash ‘the trust’. We're not going to stand for that. And when we find it we're going to make sure that the people responsible will clean it up."

The State Land Commissioner tells us the 'river of tires' will be cleaned up by November.