People who live near John Galanis' business don't mind his efforts to clean up the environment. They just wish he'd clean it somewhere else.
Galanis recycles used tires. He makes pickup truck liners out of them; he makes fuel for cement kilns; he makes 5-pound training weights for bodybuilders. He makes door stops and other items out of tires. But right now he has more than 100,000 of them piled on the asphalt of his yard at 985 S. 800 West."We're receiving about 95 percent of the tires in the state," Galanis said, noting that the business he serves as president, Ecology Recovery Systems, recently received 20,000 tires from Provo City. The tires are coming in faster than Galanis can recycle them.
His neighbors see only the mounting piles of tires and the heavy trucks that lumber down their streets each day.
"I don't care if he's the only one in the state that recycles tires, why does he have to be doing it in my back yard?" asked Leah Bodily, whose home of 43 years borders the tire lot.
Bodily and other neighbors worry about the possibility of fire and of rodents using the tires.
"This is too close to transients and the railroad," said another neighbor who asked not to be identified. "I'm worried about vandalism and fire. It's an eyesore."
Galanis has received all the necessary permits to do what he's doing. Zoning enforcement agents, fire officials and the Salt Lake City-County Health Department all gave him approval. He's kept fire lanes open in case of emergencies, and he's built an 8-foot fence around the property with three strands of barbed wire on top. He tries to keep the stacks of tires to 8 feet tall, although they looks taller in some spots.
He said his lot is free of rodents and he has a security guard on duty all night to guard against vandals.
But health officials say Galanis now is violating one of their rules. He's keeping way more than the 1,500 tires he's allowed to keep in the yard.
"We are working with him," said Dorothy Adams, the Health Department's waste minimization specialist. "We are writing him notice that he can no longer take more tires."
Galanis claims that won't be a problem next month when the state starts subsidizing his business at $21 per ton. The money will come from a surcharge on new tires sold throughout the state. Lawmakers approved the subsidy last year in an effort to support the recycling industry and clean up the environment.
Ironically, one of the lawmakers who helped pass the subsidy, Rep. Joanne Milner, D-Salt Lake City, is squarely on the side of the neighbors who want Galanis moved. She represents the district where Galanis set up shop.
"I'm not against recycling," Milner said. "But this type of thing should not be adjacent to a residential area."
Milner's complaint is against the city and the Health Department, agencies that she said never should have allowed the recycling company in a residential neighborhood in the first place. She's organized a neighborhood meeting Wednesday night to air the complaints.
"The west side has always felt like a stepchild of the city," she said. "How many of these do you see on the east side?"
Until the state starts sending him money, Galanis has nobody to buy his products. In the meantime, he simply is shredding the tires at the rate of 1,500 an hour and transporting them to a private landfill.
The building Galanis is leasing used to be used by a soft-drink company. Galanis said soft-drink trucks used to drive through the neighborhood at all hours. His trucks, on the other hand, drive only during the day.
Galanis has had problems with cities before. In April, he moved his tires out of North Salt Lake following a dispute with city business license officials. He says his business is important to the community.
"If we weren't here, these tires would be all over the valley," he said. "They'd be in the landfill and the vacant lots."
Tired of tires?
Rep. Joanne Milner, D-Salt Lake, has organized a neighborhood meeting to discuss complaints about Ecology Recovery Systems. The meeting will be Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Chapman Branch Library, 577 S. 900 West.