Silas Walker, Deseret News
A pedestrian walks by the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. A Senate proposal would reimburse rural landfill operators for the costs of used tire removal and recycling. The fund established in 1990 had $4.6 million in it, but covered 60 percent of landfills' costs. The bill would cover 100 percent of costs.

SALT LAKE CITY — A legislative proposal that advanced unanimously from a committee Wednesday would help rural communities cover the costs associated with the state's used tire recycling program.

SB46by Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, would allow for 100 percent reimbursement of rural area's costs, as opposed to the 60 percent covered under current law.

The measure was heard by the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality on Wednesday, the same day a legislative audit was released pointing out some problems in the 28-year-old state program.

In particular, the audit noted that over the last two fiscal years, the number of new waste tires generated outpaced the number of new waste tires collected.

"Cities and counties struggle to manage waste tires as illicit waste tire disposal continues and as some landfills are unable to afford waste tire cleanup costs," the audit noted.

Auditors pointed out this gap exists despite strong support in state law.

"We believe that, in light of our findings, the fund's purpose of encouraging waste tire cleanup statewide has not yet been fully realized."

The program was established in 1990 and is under the management of the Utah Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control, which is tasked with the administration of the Waste Tire Recycling Act.

Utah legislators approved the law in light of signficant issues associated with large tire piles that posed risks to both public and environmental health.

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Waste tires are combustible, nonbiodegradable, not easily compacted, and the residue from tire fires contaminates water and soil. One tire fire in Ogden decades ago burned for weeks.

Tires also act as homes for disease-carrying pests such as rodents and mosquitos.

Auditors found instances where intact tires were still being disposed at landfills due to an interpretation in the law they recommend the legislature fix.

They also noted that the division could exercise better oversight of the number of tires landfills accept.

Sandall's bill goes to the full Senate.