A Park County Judge heard arguments in the case of a proposed tire dump.

NBC Montana first told you last year about the proposed dump near Pray Montana in the Paradise Valley that could bring in up to 5,000 tires a day.

The Department of Environmental Quality signed off on the project but Park County health officials said "no".
Now, after another petition to move forward with the plan, Paradise Valley residents are fighting for a more thorough review of the potential environmental impacts of the plan.

"Nobody wants a tire dump in the middle of Paradise Valley."

It's a message Anthony Eaton, President of Protecting Paradise, believes folks with the Department of Environmental Quality aren't hearing.

"I think the DEQ is completely unresponsive to the residents of the area and this is an effort to try and get their attention, I guess you could say, and ask them to rethink their position," explains Eaton.

Members of the group lined the pews of Judge Brenda Gilbert's courtroom to express their opposition to the proposed tire monofill.

They list a number of concerns from tire fires to an increase in traffic to chemicals leaching into groundwater.

"We're just concerned about health, safety and welfare and if this is rubber stamped and 20 years down the road we learn that all of the wells have been contaminated and that there are health risks associated, we can't go backwards," says Paradise Valley resident Tracy Raich.

That's why they want an Environmental Impact Study for a more thorough look at the potential impacts of the proposed tire dump.

Attorneys with the Department of Environmental Quality argue, the potential consequences of say, chemicals leaching into groundwater or a tire fire are so unlikely that they're not required to consider them.

"The law does not require the department to do a full Environmental Impact Statement because of the very remote possibility."

DEQ Counselor Dana David says the proposal is such a low impact project, it didn't even need the environmental assessment that was already done. Instead, legally, the DEQ was only required to do an environmental checklist. David says they did an assessment because of the strong opposition to the project.

"From a geological, from an engineering standpoint, that gravel pit actually is a very good place to put waste tires because you can put the tires in the pit where nobody's going to see them so, the project actually has its good point," explains David.

He says the project outlines a number of safety measures that address concerns like fire and says contamination of groundwater is not an issue.

"The threat of groundwater at the bottom of this pit percolating up in some way and getting into those tires, it just doesn't happen," says David.

He says he understands residents are upset but tells me, it's not grounds to deny the application or conduct an impact study.

"We don't have the authority to say you can't put this here because it's too beautiful. It's just not a decision that DEQ can make," David says.

Yet, folks with Protecting Paradise say if an Environmental Impact Statement is done and reveals no adverse effects from the project, "then I don't have a problem with it," says Raich.

The judge didn't make any decisions, Thursday. She asked attorneys file new briefs within 20 days to answer a couple of questions.