Earthjustice, Tribes Petition EPA to Halt Manufacture of Tires Toxic to Salmon

Image: Earthjustice

Three Washington tribes are seeking to outlaw the manufacture of tires using chemicals that break down into a toxic chemical that flows from roads into waterways, killing salmon within hours.

The nonprofit Earthjustice petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in early August on behalf of the Yurok, Port Gamble S’Kallam and Puyallup tribes, to prohibit the manufacturing, processing, use and distribution of 6PPD in and for tires.

6PPD is an antioxidant and antiozonant that helps prevent the degradation and cracking of rubber compounds caused by exposure to oxygen, ozone and temperature fluctuation. It’s used industry-wide to help tires resist degradation and cracking, which is considered vital for the safety of those riding in vehicles equipped with them.

Studies have shown that 6PPD-quinone can kill coho salmon within hours.

The Earthjustice petition contends that the chemical is responsible for “urban runoff mortality syndrome,” which kills up to 100% of coho salmon returning to spawn in urban streams. The tribes have said that 6PPD in tires poses unreasonable risks to the environment, as it requires the EPA to regulate the chemical under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

“To see 6PPD-q kill the salmon that are reared in the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe’s own streams and from its own hatchery is an unconscionable slap in the face to a people who rely on salmon for their well-being, in addition to being a gross violation of the tribe’s rights as enshrined in the 1855 Treaty of Point No Point,” Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe environmental scientist Josh Carter said.

“If (the) EPA truly cares about protecting the environment and the tribe’s treaty rights, not just industry’s pocketbooks, it will act now,” Carter said.

The petition contends that use of 6PPD in tires generates ongoing, ubiquitous contamination of surface waters near roads with 6PPD-quinone, killing coho salmon, rainbow trout, steelhead trout, Chinook salmon, brook trout, white spotted char and likely other species that haven’t yet been studied.

Salmon and steelhead populations, which are central to the ecosystems, cultures and economies of communities throughout the West Coast, have already declined dramatically and scientific and regulatory authorities believe 6PPD use in tires has played a major role.

Many populations of coho salmon, steelhead trout and Chinook salmon are listed as endangered or threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act, underscoring the need for urgent action from the EPA, the petition states.