Calvert County commissioners are petitioning the state to hold a public hearing on a proposed scrap tire recycling business to air concerns that the facility in Owings would pose health and safety hazards.

"What's the fire risk? What routes will the trucks take? Where is the equipment going to be stored? It seems like we've got a lot of questions and we need some information," Commissioner David F. Hale (R-Owings) said.

Since 1997, Southern Maryland Recycling Inc. has operated a tire collection facility on Binnacle Lane, where it is licensed to store as many as 1,500 tires. The tires then are transported out of the county for shredding or burning.

The company has applied to the Maryland Department of the Environment for a permit to shred the tires into two-inch rubber chips, which would then be hauled out of county to buyers.

If approved by the state department, the business would be one of five such facilities licensed in the state, said Tariq Masood, a project engineer in the state agency. The others are in Salisbury, Baltimore, Prince George's County and Washington County.

A public hearing on a tire recycling facility is optional under state law but usually is held if there is significant local concern, Masood said. State officials are set to inspect the Owings site on Aug. 11 and have invited county officials to join them. The county has no veto power over the permit; it is strictly the state's decision.

According to its application filed with the state, Southern Maryland Recycling plans to hold as many as 3,000 tires on its premises at any one time--twice as many as it currently is permitted to store.

At their weekly meeting Tuesday, each of the five county commissioners raised concerns about the proposal.

Commissioner Patrick M. Buehler (D-St. Leonard) bristled at the idea of tires being hauled into Calvert County from other counties or states. "I support small business but I am cool to this idea because I've never been in favor of bringing in outside trash into this county," he said.

Buehler and Hale both said they doubted local roads around Binnacle Lane could handle the flow of commercial trucks and want a traffic study to be conducted. Hale also said he was worried about outdoor storage of the tires as well as equipment.

"I was in West Virginia two years ago when a tire fire broke out, and it took them nine days to extinguish it," Hale said. "I don't want that happening in Calvert County."

The owner of Southern Maryland Recycling, James Graner, runs an excavation business on Camaleer Pass that has been the target of protracted legal challenges by nearby residents for nearly a decade.

In June, the county ordered Graner to cease those operations, saying that he was violating local zoning ordinances. Graner has refused and the matter has been referred to the county attorney, who said Tuesday the county would go to court to stop Graner from running his excavating business.