Neighbors fear ‘poop trains’ could return to Alabama

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Some neighbors are concerned about the possibility that train cars full of human waste could return to dump in parts of Alabama after a public meeting was announced next week in Montgomery.

In 2018, Alabama made national headlines after it was discovered that other states were transporting wastewater sludge to be dumped at a landfill outside the Birmingham area.

On Jan. 7, ADEM will hold a public meeting to discuss proposed changes to the state’s biosolid waste program.

In a summary of reasons posted to its website, ADEM wrote the following:

“Revisions to the Division 13 are being proposed to adopt regulations for the beneficial use of by-product materials for the purpose of land application. The proposed regulations will establish procedures to encourage and regulate the land application of eligible non-hazardous by-product materials and will establish a timeline for the notification and registration application process. In addition, the proposed regulations create a registration program for entities that handle greater than 100 dry tons per year of beneficially use material for land application. These regulations provide ADEM with the regulatory framework to resolve issues regarding the handling, transportation, and application of beneficially use materials for land application that can cause human health and environmental issues.”

Neighbors are concerned that regulation could open the door for more train cars full of waste from other states.

“Around here we had an infestation of insects, flies, stink bugs. It was just filth and you could smell it 6 miles away,” said David Brasfield, who lives in West Jefferson.

READ THE TRANSCRIPT FROM THE LAST PUBLIC MEETING IN SEPTEMBER HERE

Brasfield plans to travel to Montgomery next week to be at the ADEM meeting.

“I’m worried about the overall health and environmental conditions for our community and for the state,” he said.

Beyond concerns about waste dumping at landfills, some neighbors worry about the health impacts from waste materials used as fertilizer on some farm land.

“It turned out to be poultry processing wastewater sludge, looking the company’s website, that also handled class B biosolids,” said Julie Lay, who lives in Marshall County.

Lay was at ADEM’s previous meeting about biosolids in the summer of 2019. She shared emails from ADEM that reveal some companies are hopeful ADEM will regulate the industry, rather than allowing cities or counties to implement rules or regulations.

In 2018, the Jefferson County Commission passed zoning changes that kept the train cars from returning to the county or the town of West Jefferson.

“The only people that would ever consider bringing this embarrasment back to the state would be those that profit from it,” said West Jefferson Mayor Charles Nix.

Nix will also travel to Montgomery for Tuesday’s meeting to learn more about the proposed changes.

In additional emails to ADEM, one company references the “poop train” as a possible reason for the proposed changes. The company goes on to write:

“We are at a point in time where the land application of municipal wastewater biproducts is being viewed as a negative and a problem. The truth is that when it is done right, it is a beneficial product that is envrionmentally friendly and the truest form of green industry.”

READ THE EMAILS TO ADEM HERE

If you ask people who live near the dump sites, many say something stinks again.

“It was such a disaster that I am surprised anyone is bringing it back up. It was an embarrasment to the state,” Nix said.

Representatives for the Southern Environmental Law Center will also be following the developments.

Some have wondered if regulations will help by allowing ADEM to resolve any problems that could arise.

To learn more about the proposed changes, click here.

Attempts to reach ADEM for comment on the story were unsuccessful.

The public hearing will take place Jan. 7 at the ADEM Main Hearing Room at 1:30 p.m. in Montgomery.


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