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Tire-d of the mess

Gerald Booher, the alleged builder of a tire fence in Cromwell Township, must be Huntingdon County’s “public enemy No. 1.” While Booher was working in a farm field Wednesday afternoon, the state’s attorney general, and several of his department’s minions, were in Huntingdon to make a “major” announcement.
Criminal charges were filed Wednesday against Booher, 67, of Shirleysburg RR 1, for operating what the state termed the illegal storing of approximaetly 300,000 tires on a Cromwell Township farm.
The announcement of the filing of the charges was made by none other than Attorney General Mike Fisher at an afternoon news conference at the Huntingdon County Courthouse. The criminal complaint was filed at the office of Orbisonia District Justice Mary Jamison.
At the news conference, Fisher presented pictures as evidence of the large number of tires on the property reportedly owned by Booher and his mother.
“The aerial surveillance photographs and videotape taken by my agents show that the Booher property contains massive piles of waste tires at the edge of a tree line and also in an open field located behind a barn,” said the attorney general.
He said the photos were taken March 24, 2003.
“These waste tires present a breeding ground for mosquitoes and are a fire hazard,” said Fisher.
Fisher said on April 17, 2003, his agents executed a search warrant on the Booher property and made direct observation of “several hundred thousand” waste tires.
“My agents estimate that there are at least one-quarter of a mile of tires that run along the tree line of the Booher property,” he said.
The attorney general said his office assumed jurisdiction of the long-standing case based on a referral from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
At the April search, the agents were assisted by a DEP water pollution biologist,” said Fisher.
“The biologist stated that because of the stacked and exposed nature of the tire piles, they provided a breeding ground for mosquitoes which create a public nuisance,” said Fisher.
He said the biologist also found that the tires contained sufficient water for mosquito production and observed mosquito larvae in a number of tires.
“With the spread of the West Nile virus, which is carried by mosquitoes, illegal tire storage creates an increased potential harm to Pennsylvania,” said the attorney general. “Furthermore, illegal waste tire disposals create a serious hazard if the tires catch on fire and can burn uncontrollably for days.”
William Thomas, a Cromwell Township supervisor, attended the news briefing.
He said he has been after DEP for some time to do “something” about the tires and appreciated the attorney general’s staff involvement.
“At least we are heading in the right way,” Thomas told The Daily News.
Fisher said the charges state that from 1989 through 1998, Booher was mandated in seven separate Commonwealth Court orders to properly remove and dispose of the waste tires on the property. Fisher said that DEP reports there is no evidence that Booher ever removed tires from the property “pursuant to the court orders.”
Booher said he had no knowledge that the charges had been filed when he was contacted by The Daily News Wednesday afternoon. Booher claims that the state had agreed several years ago to remove the tires, but never did so.
“I would like to be judged based on the truth,” said Booher in a telephone interview. “I am not into propaganda.”
Booher has been charged with two counts of unlawful conduct and one count of a permits and licenses required statue to use the land as a solid waste disposal area.
All three charges are misdemeanors and each carry a maximum fine of $5,000 and a jail term of three years.
A summons ordering Booher to appear for a preliminary hearing, at a later date, is being sent by Jamison.
The case will be prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Andrew Thiros of the department’s Environmental Crimes Section and Huntingdon County District Attorney Robert B. Stewart III.