Proposed rendering plant brings out angry residents in Gadsden

Proposed rendering plant brings out angry residents in Gadsden
Proposed rendering plant brings out angry residents in Gadsden(WBRC)
Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 4:35 PM CST
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GADSDEN, Ala. (WBRC) - An industrial prospect is getting an angry reception from a number of Etowah County residents.

A large number of people from Gadsden and Rainbow City turned out for a meeting of the Gadsden Airport Authority.

The authority owns land where Pilgrims Pride has applied for an ADEM permit to build an animal rendering plant.

The authority didn’t discuss the project at their meeting, but attorney Christie Knowles requested a meeting for residents to discuss the project. She represented a nearby business owner.

Many of the residents who spoke to us Friday expressed concern about the smells and pollution that would come from the plant.

“We live on family land that we’ve had out there for over 40 years. We have a small family out there that we hope to leave to our children one day, and the value of that will be greatly depreciated. Our daily life, we have livestock out there,” says Jessica Williamson, who owns farmland very close to the site.

Knowles told the crowd after the meeting the project is what she called “shockingly far along.”

She says it’s been shrouded in secrecy, as is usually the case with industrial prospects.

It only became public with the ADEM application and many of the residents who came out said they literally found out about it overnight.

Late Friday afternoon, state Senator Andrew Jones announced that ADEM has agreed to hold a public hearing on the project.

“I’m very pleased that ADEM made a verbal commitment to me to hold a public hearing during my phone call with them earlier this morning,” Jones said. “I have major concerns about the secrecy and lack of public awareness surrounding this entire process. In my opinion, the residents, businesses, and churches in the area were not given adequate notification.  In addition, elected officials in Rainbow City (where the prospective site joins) should have been given some deference and consulted in advance about this project. Government should not operate in this way. We owe it to the folks along Steele Station Road to allow them to have their voices heard in a public forum.  Concerns over air and water quality, loss of property value, loss of business revenue, and the like should be taken seriously and discussed in an open, public setting. Normally, ADEM would not hold a public hearing in this situation, and I am grateful to the organization for working together with me to make this happen.”

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