As It Happens

Why several trainloads of New Yorkers' poop has been stranded for months in Alabama

Millions of kilograms of sewer sludge from New York and New Jersey has been rotting in the Parrish, Ala., railyard since January, and Mayor Heather Hall wants it gone.

'We're beginning to feel that it's a bit of a David and Goliath situation,' says Parrish Mayor Heather Hall

Dozens of containers of human waste have been sitting in a railyard in Parrish, Ala., since January, and the town's mayor wants them gone. (Town of Parrish )

Parrish Mayor Heather Hall is fed up with smelling other people's poop.

She has been trying for months to rid her rural Alabama town of the more than 100 tractor-trailer sized containers of human feces that were shipped from New York and New Jersey and left to rot in her local train station.

"It's right next door to our softball and baseball fields and right across the street from houses," Hall told As It Happens host Carol Off. "It's a very small town."

Parrish is home to 982 people spread over 5.4 square kilometres — and Hall says everyone can smell the poop.

"It smells like dead bodies," one resident told CNN affiliate WVTM.

'It kept coming and coming and coming'

So how did Parrish end up a trainload of sewer sludge from out of state?

It was originally en route to Big Sky Environmental, a private landfill in Adamsville, Ala.

But in January, the nearby town of West Jefferson filed an injunction against Big Sky to stop them storing the waste in a rail yard near them.

Parrish Mayor Heather Hall says the smell from dozens of stranded containers of human waste is permeating the small Alabama town. (Google Maps/Submitted by Heather Hall)

West Jefferson won its legal battle with Big Sky in February.

"The railroad decided: Well, if we can't go to West Jefferson, the next closest rail stop to Big Sky would be the town of Parrish. They have a really large train yard so we're just going to bring it there," Hall said.

"And that's what they did. And it kept coming and coming and coming."

'David and Goliath' 

The New York Department of Environmental Protection told the Wall Street Journal that it has stopped sending shipments to the Big Sky facility, but has no intention of accepting any returns.

"New York is a big state. And, you know, there's a lot of wide open country out there too that it can be taken to. It shouldn't have to be shipped all the way down to rural Alabama or parked in my rail yard," Hall said. 

"We're a very rural community. We're a very poor community. Honestly, we're beginning to feel that it's a bit of a David and Goliath situation that we have a big, huge city and we have a very large corporation taking advantage of the fact that we have a small town here. "

Hall says they are stored near several homes as well as the local baseball and soccer fields. (Town of Parrish )

Hall told CNN that Big Sky originally promised to have the waste removed within seven to 10 days. It's been nearly two months.

Meanwhile, both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management have told Hall the waste poses no hazard for residents, she said. 

"Nobody seems to know what to do and these are the agencies that are supposed to be helping us," Hall said. 

As It Happens has reached out to both agencies as well as Blue Sky Environmental for comment.

'Cooking in the sun'

At its peak, Hall said there were 252 containers of waste at the rail yard.

That's since been reduced to about 150, but she has no idea how the long it will take to finish the job. 

The stink, she said, is only going to get worse as springs takes hold — as will the influx of flies attracted to it.

"It's just now starting to warm up. ... The one saving grace we have right now is because it has been so cold," she said.

"The longer this stuff sits on the railroad on those tracks and this material is just sitting there and is cooking in the sun, how long before that material becomes a health hazard?"

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Kate Swoger.



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