Protesters, businessman bring rendering plant opposition to Gadsden City Council

Updated: Dec. 8, 2020 at 4:51 PM CST
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GADSDEN, Ala. (WBRC) - Opponents of a proposed rendering plant near the Gadsden airport once again took their case to the city council.

Pilgrim’s Pride makes ingredients for pet food. The company is negotiating for a piece of property near the Gadsden airport.

The rendering plant would extract protein from chicken parts leftover from poultry producers.

Christie Knowles, an attorney representing a nearby business leader, says the council can stop the project any time, even though the state of Alabama brought it to the area.

Knowles says she represents a businessman in the area as well as a number of residents she says are upset about the plant.

“Their voices need to be heard, that’s the most eloquent thing I can say today,” Knowles said of the people, many of whom were protesting outside city hall and could be heard inside the council chamber.

Knowles also represents businessman David Chadwick, who owns Choice Fabricators located near the proposed site on Steele Station Road. He says he’s also heard many conflicting stories about how many large trucks are expected in the area.

“What are we doing with these 25 truck slots that are going to have the renderings of these byproducts with all these animal intestines, these leakages of water, blood, waste, whatever you want to call it,” said Chadwick. “It was a hundred trucks per day, not 2.4, is what their original documentation showed.”

“I didn’t fly here today on my corporate jet, I drove from my plant,” said Chadwick, referencing Pilgrim’s Pride officials who flew into Gadsden Monday night and were met with protesters.

Justinn Overton, who heads Coosa Riverkeeper, expressed concern about the plant’s effects on the waterway.

“Pilgrim’s Pride has notoriously violated laws at its facilities across the nation,” said Overton. “Since 2000, the company has had 44 violations with total penalties over $5 million, just for environmental violations alone.”

A spokesman for Pilgrim’s Pride, Cameron Bruett, says their plans would call for much smaller numbers of trucks, and almost (but not quite) none on Sundays.

When the plans become public, Bruett says a lot of people will be surprised how eco-friendly the project is going to be.

Another spokesperson, Liz Halloran, said many of the claims made at Tuesday’s meeting weren’t fact-based.

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