Cleanup of Charleston area Viva Recycling tire dump complete ahead of schedule


The empty lot of the Viva Recycling Center

More than 1 million scrap tires abandoned at the former Viva Recycling plant near Moncks Corner have been removed. Provided/Berkeley County

More than 1 million tires abandoned by the closed Viva Recycling plant near Moncks Corner have been removed ahead of schedule and under budget, but the fight to hold someone financially accountable for the mess continues.

Spokeswoman Hannah Moldenhauer said the county’s contractor, Liberty Tire Recycling, has finished the cleanup that began in August. A final walk-through of the facility off Cypress Gardens Road was completed Wednesday.

All told, Pittsburgh-based Liberty removed 13,540 tons of scrap tires from the site in a 32-week period — about two months earlier than planned. The tires have been taken to Liberty sites where they will be recycled as materials for landscaping, paving and other uses.

An overhead image shows piles of tires at the Viva Recycling facility prior to a cleanup project that began in August. Provided? South Carolina DHEC

The cost of the cleanup came to $3.3 million, or $200,000 under budget. The project was paid for with public money — a grant from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control  The grant uses the $2-per-tire fee consumers pay when they buy new tires.

Berkeley County provided drone footage of the cleaned Viva Recycling site on its website.

The cleanup eliminates a fire and health hazard for residents of hundreds of homes in the adjacent Fairmont South subdivision. However, the state’s health agency has been unable to collect a $1.7 million civil judgment filed against Viva’s owners for unpaid regulatory fines and penalties.

A related company owes more than $400,000 to the Berkeley-Dorchester-Charleston Council of Governments for an unpaid loan. The council has obtained a judgment in that case but has not collected any money.

Meanwhile, the 21.3-acre site where Viva operated was sold in a delinquent tax sale to East Atlantic Trust LLC of Charleston, which paid past-due taxes totaling $966,000. That bill includes money the recycling business must reimburse the county for failing to abide by terms of an incentive agreement.

Viva has until early November to reclaim the property by paying East Atlantic Trust the $966,000 plus interest. The property has an assessed value of $5.8 million.

The cleanup was spurred by The Post and Courier report “Tire Failure,” which exposed how lax state oversight and corporate missteps fueled the rise of massive tire piles in Moncks Corner, Anderson and Jacksonville, Fla.

The newspaper documented how Viva executives had a string of bankruptcies in the Northeast before launching their tire-recycling projects in South Carolina. Despite those failures, state and local officials greased their entry into South Carolina by approving $16 million in tax-exempt bonds.

Viva opened its facility in 2013 and ran into trouble with regulators two years later for improper storage of tires and other violations. The problems, and the piles of tires, grew bigger and DHEC ultimately revoked the company’s operating permit in 2017.