Larry Bock, 64, of Howard City, Mich., was charged with a scrap-tire violation. If convicted, he faces up to 180 days in jail, $10,000 in fines and 100 hours of community service.
Three other people could face charges, including a 25-year-old Howard City man arrested with Bock, police said.
Bock was arrested Friday in Lake County while allegedly disposing of 89 tires along a rural road. Police said Bock admitted dumping 10,000 tires in 11 counties and confessed to tossing about 400 tires in Lake County ditches and other illegal dumping in Newaygo County.
Police said the men were arrested on a rural road after a corrections officer leaving for work spotted them about 6:30 a.m. and called the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.
Many of the tires originated in the Grand Rapids area and were dumped in counties throughout West Michigan, State Police Detective Sgt. Ed Doyle said.
Bock used an old bread truck to pick up tires at businesses that were unaware they were being disposed of illegally, Doyle said.
He offered better deals than other haulers, as low at $1.50 per tire, compared to a typical charge of $5.
The tires were supposed to be taken to an approved dump site, but Bock and others were able to keep the money because they did not pay to dispose of them properly, police said.
Complaints about tire dumping began in August and increased a month later. In some instances, certain areas were hit three or four times, police said.
"There would be hundreds of tires in some of these ditches," Doyle said.
Some of the tires had been covered with snow, but were exposed by warm temperatures.
When police arrested Bock and the other man, the two allegedly said they had dumped thousands of tires in the past year, particularly in the last six months.
Some tires dumped in northern Kent County likely are linked to other suspects, sheriff’s officials said. Smaller piles of tires, between four and 30, may be the work of unconnected individuals or people who heard of Bock’s activities.
"It sounds like that group is going to be the major players, but I’m confident there are others," Kent County Sheriff’s Lt. John O’Rourke said. "There are too many locations and descriptions of vehicles that could have done it to be just one group."
O’Rourke said Kent detectives will talk to Bock, but continue their investigation. Tires are a nuisance to the environment and a threat to people’s health, the lieutenant said.
"These things are awful," he said. "They never ever rot and they’re just a breeding ground for disease.
"For these guys, it’s out of sight, out of mind. For the rest of us, we have to take care of them and pay the price.”