BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - UPDATE: The Alabama Department of Environmental Management just issued its inspection report for this dumpsite late Thursday, and said it found violations on site, and said some of the waste that inspectors found now was there back in 2017 when ADEM first learned of this site. ADEM tells WBRC they plan to take an enforcement action soon.
ORIGINAL: Lay Lake is supposed to be a place of beauty, rest, and relaxation. But the sight and the smell of an illegal dumpsite less than a quarter of a mile from the water’s edge is stressing out neighbors, and potentially the area’s ecosystem.
We first learned of the dumpsite from our WBRC FOX6 viewers who contacted our Call For Action volunteers in early April. We drove down to get a better look for ourselves.
We found, tires, TV’s, used diapers, and piles and piles of trash, some of it burned----just a few feet off the side of the road, and continuing well into the woods.
The folks who called us want to remain anonymous because they fear retribution from landowner Jerry Wooten, who they say not only knows this dumping is happening on his property, they believe he’s encouraging it as a way to avoid paying trash disposal fees at rental properties nearby.
One neighbor wrote to us “My husband and I have a home on Lay Lake near the trash heap site and we are very concerned about the impact it could have on us, our family and our property value. Lay Lake is a very special place for us where our children and their families love to come and spend quality family time together. If this nearby trash leaches into our water and contaminates it, neither we nor our families will want to be exposed to that and are concerned about potential the health implications.”
We reached out first to the Shelby County Department of Environmental Services in late April and they told us they were aware of the problem, and within 2 days they sent the landowner a 2nd notification of a violation--which started a 15-day clock to force him to either clean it all up, or face the possibility of the county hiring a crew to come clean this up and send the landowner the bill.
We also reached out to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. It's working its own investigation of this part of the land where neighbors say these pictures show raw sewage dumped on this land, sewage they claim is coming from septic tanks at rental properties this landowner manages.
We tried to contact Mr. Wooten but every number we could find has been disconnected. Shelby County inspectors plan to return to the site this Friday and next Monday when the 15-day time limit expires to see if the site is clean, or if they will refer this to the county attorney and commission for more action.
ADEM tells us they should have a preliminary inspection report ready within the next couple of days and will then decide if they can or should take enforcement action.