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Remote Sensing of Scrap Tires: Vector Source, Ohio Valley

scrap tires


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Project institution: Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky

Principal investigator: Dr. Fred Knapp
Co-investigator: M. Beavers


In the United States, improperly stored tires serve as an excellent breeding habitat for several mosquito species that transmit a number of potentially deadly human and animal diseases. These diseases include La Crosse Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and, in the past, Dengue and Yellow Fever. The commercial trade in scrap tires is also responsible for the recent introduction and spread of the Asian Tiger Mosquito, Aedes albopictus.

We have not yet solved the problem of economic disposal of scrap tires. The EPA estimates 3 billion tires currently litter the landscape of the USA and the pile grows by 300,000 every year. Public health authorities have become obsessed with tire disposal; nearly every state has new laws and new taxes on tire disposal. Unfortunately, these measures lead to a great deal of illegal dumping. When landfills are closed to tires (very frequent at present), the tires get dumped in rural or wilderness areas when nobody is looking. Furtive tire piles can result in major disease foci. In 1992, we discovered such an accumulation in a deep swamp in Florida, only 7 miles from Disneyworld. Aedes albopictus was present in billions and 1/600 were infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis. The State of Florida had to spend $2 million to grind and eliminate the tires.

Furtive tire dumps are usually found only by accident. Remote sensing provides a more intelligent approach. We propose the use of aerial multispectral videography. Measurements of the spectral reflectance of tires, and various objects in the environment that might be confused with tires, were acquired in the visible and infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. We used 2 and 4 nanometer increments with a portable spectroradiometer.

Results showed tires can be differentiated at several points in the infrared region of the spectrum. Imagery of several tire piles located in rural and urban environments were acquired, using an airplane flying at 250, 500, and 900 meters altitude. These images have been digitized and are currently being analyzed. Additional imagery will be acquired this summer at tire sites along the Ohio River in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. The images will be digitized for computer analysis incorporating supervised and unsupervised classification algorithms. These results will then be analyzed to determine which algorithm is most effective in identifying tires.

Finally, location of furtive tire dumps will be reported to public health authorities in their respective states. Plans will be developed for subsequent studies in West Virginia, currently a hotbed of La Crosse Encephalitis activity.


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Last updated: Mar 2000