Hall: RR cars emptied of sludge

Posted 4/19/18

PARRISH - On a day when the Associated Press nationally highlighted the train of human waste from New York that was parked in Parrish,  Mayor Heather Hall said Wednesday all the box cars in the …

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Hall: RR cars emptied of sludge


PARRISH - On a day when the Associated Press nationally highlighted the train of human waste from New York that was parked in Parrish,  Mayor Heather Hall said Wednesday all the box cars in the town had been emptied of the waste that had created an almost unbearable odor in the town. 

On April 9, Hall had said at a Parrish Town Council meeting, "If the last of the rail cars transporting the sewage sludge is not removed from our town by April 23, the Town of Parrish will file a lawsuit and injunction against Big Sky Environmental and its affiliates." 

About 250 rail cars with sewage sludge that had been transported by Big Sky from up north have been sitting on a Norfolk-Southern Railway spur located near downtown Parrish. As of the council meeting, 80 rail cars still remained. 

In a statement posted Wednesday on Facebook, Hall said, "I have wonderful news. Big Sky has ended their operation in Parrish. The final container was transported and emptied Tuesday ... afternoon at 2 p.m. The containers that remain at the rail yard are empties awaiting transport back North and should be removed soon."

The statement came as the AP posted a story Wednesday, headlined, "'Poop Train' full of NYC sewage raises stink in Alabama town." It was listed among its top stories that are first seen when opening up the AP phone app. 

"A stinking trainload of human waste from New York City is stranded in a tiny Alabama town, spreading a stench like a giant backed-up toilet — and the 'poop train' is just the latest example of the South being used as a dumping ground for other states' waste," said the story written by AP writers Jeff Martin and Jay Reeves. 

It noted the now-familiar story of how the sludge have sat in train cars near the little league ball fields for two months, leaving an unbearable smell that Hall told the AP was like "rotting corpses, or carcasses. It smells like death." 

Residents said they have considered rescheduling children's softball games and dabbing peppermint oil under their noses because the smell was so bad. 

The train was headed for the Big Sky landfill, about 20 miles east of Parrish, as the landfill has been accepting the New York sewage sludge since last year, the AP said. The waste has been sent out of New York City to other states as federal regulations have prevented disposal in the Atlantic Ocean since the late 1980s. 

The waste sent is recovered from a sewage treatment process and called "biosolids," the AP reported. 

Transfers earlier in West Jefferson had been stopped by a court injunction, filing a lawsuit against Big Sky Environmental LLC. After that happened in January, the train stopped in Parrish in late January, as the AP said no zoning was in place there to block the trains. 

Hall told the AP that the town would probably look at "simple" zoning laws to prevent something like this happening again. 

The Black Warrior Riverkeeper environmental group has opposed permits for Big Sky, charging that rural areas of Alabama have become a dumping ground for the rest of the nation. The AP referred at one point in the story, without naming it, to the Chem Waste  hazardous waste dump in Emelle that became controversial in the 1980s. 

In her Facebook post Wednesday, Hall said, "I know this situation took longer than anyone, especially myself, had hoped it would take to come to an end.  It was a very complicated situation that took the cooperation of multiple entities, especially, our legislative delegation in Montgomery."

She said Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, "has been a big fighter for the Town of Parrish in this manner, and we thank him for all he did to help with our situation.  

"I would also like to thank Norfolk Southern for requiring Big Sky to hire more drivers to move this material more expeditiously out of the Town of Parrish and all they did to help bring an end to our nightmare. We are extremely grateful for your help."

Hall noted it took two months to remove the material from the town, and other towns and cities have been fighting the material in their towns for years.

"While what happened in Parrish was, to our understanding, an unprecedented event, there are still small towns like Parrish fighting this situation on a smaller scale. I will say this over and over....this material does not need to be in a populated area...period. It greatly diminishes the quality of life for those who live anywhere near it," she said. 

She said no "entity" was regulating the process and legislative action was needed to change that. 

"If there had been even a small amount of oversight this might never have happened," Hall said. 

Hall thanked the media for its help in resolving the situation. 

"For all of you in the media who have made our nightmare a huge public interest story, thank you. We know that one of the reasons that our nightmare is over is due to your coverage," she said. "We are looking forward to moving on." 

At the recent council meeting, Hall said, "I have also received several phone calls about the rail cars being taken up Alabama Highway 269 towards Jasper, where they are allegedly being dumped in an old strip pit close to the Jasper City limits. I was able to verify that information, and I have contacted the proper authorities to let them know the material is no longer being taken to Big Sky." 

Hall said she not only notified the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) regarding the latest issue in regards to the rail cars, she also notified the Walker County Commission and the City of Jasper.

"This latest problem regarding these rail cars is totally an issue for the Walker County Commission and the City of Jasper," Hall said. "But however they want to handle it, we will stand behind them. Because we don't want it here and I know they don't want it there."

Commission Chairman Jerry Bishop said at the end of an hour-long commission meeting Monday to Engineer Mike Short, "Michael, have I missed anything besides trying to stop the Parrish Choo-Choo train from dumping it on private land?" Short replied, "That's all I know." 

Bishop then said to the audience, "Some of you folks didn't know that. The Parrish Choo-Choo has been hauling stuff over here on the edge of Hay Valley. So we've called ADEM and EPA and everyone we can think of. They haven't stopped it yet." 

Short added the agencies are aware of it. 

Bishop added, "It is on private land and I'm not even going to bring up the name. Everybody will find out whose it is. But I am saddened that we would take human waste and dump it on our land from another state up North. But I guess money is the key to everything."