BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - It’s a story and a smell that lingered for months in parts of our area. The so called “Poop train” captured the nation’s attention in West Jefferson and the town of Parrish. Nearly a year later, we’re looking into what’s being done to prevent it from causing another stink.
Last year, the smell of the infamous “Poop Train” in Parrish left a bad smell and taste literally in the mouths of people who call the small Walker County town home. At the time people told us it smelled like “death.”
“I’m not too happy about it considering the fact of its right here in our front yard,” a resident who wanted to remain anonymous at the time said. "When you turn the air conditioning on at night sometimes and it’s coming through the air conditioner.”
The train filled with New York City area sewage sludge, known as biosolids, first arrived in Parrish in early 2018. For months, the country watched as people in the town had to deal with it.
“I don't want the waste from other states dumped on us. They need to handle their own waste within their own states,” Dwight Harris, another Parrish resident said.
The sludge sat idle on train tracks until red tape was worked through to get it to Big Sky Environmental landfill in nearby Adamsville.
“Low tipping feels per ton for waste coming in to the state, which makes it economically viable and attractive to dump here,” Nelson Brooke, an environmentalist with the Black Warrior Riverkeeper said.
Environmentalists say low landfill fees and lax zoning lanes make it easy for cities to send their waste to Alabama and other southern states. In 1998, Congress banned New York from dumping human waste into the ocean. So it has to go somewhere.
At last check, the New York Department of Environmental Protection halted it from coming to Alabama after receiving complaints. Big Sky Environmental was also violating zoning laws after causing the same stink with sewage sludge in the town of West Jefferson. The issued ended up in federal court.
“It really blew up smell wise for local residents of West Jefferson, and they rose up and stopped it from being illegally unloaded in their community at a rail yard that didn’t have the proper license for it,” Brooke said.
Brooke feels there needs to be better enforcement of environmental laws, and tipping fees need to be higher in order for the state to not be a dumping ground for the rest of the country. Right now, Brooke tells us Alabama’s tipping fees are the 7th lowest in the country.
“I’d rather us be where we’re competing to not get the waste. We’re supposedly Alabama the beautiful, right? Isn’t that kind of our state slogan, at least on highways? We’re not really living up to that if we’re an open-door policy for waste coming from all over the country,” Brooke said.
Parrish Mayor Heather Hall said things are now in place to prevent sewage sludge from coming back. Hall said she just wants to move forward in a positive direction.