Mayor works to get sewage sludge containers gone

PARRISH — Parrish Mayor Heather Hall got news Friday afternoon she found disturbing — and which sent her searching for answers over the weekend. Hall said she learned Friday around 2 p.m. from the mayor of West Jefferson that numerous railcars which have been sitting idle on the train tracks in Parrish over the past several day contained sewage sludge “I knew the railcars were sitting there, but West Jefferson’s mayor, Charles Nix, was sitting in my office on Friday when I returned from meetings in Birmingham,” Hall said. “And that was the first time that I was made aware of what the containers on the railcars were hauling.” Hall said there were approximately 200 railcars sitting on railroad tracks, which runs from Depot Street in Parrish to the bridge on Alabama Highway 269 South, and each railcar held two to three metal shipping containers. “I immediately got on the phone with Senator Greg Reed’s office and Representative Tim Wadsworth’s office, as well as ADEM (Alabama Department of Environmental Management) and the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), and soon learned that there was nothing that could be done,” Hall said. “According to ADEM, the metal shipping containers are hauling what ADEM called a Grade A bio-solid, which is a legal non-hazardous material,” Hall said. “The cargo containers were reportedly waiting to be off-loaded from the train on to flatbed trucks and taken the Big Sky Environmental, a solid waste facility in Adamsville.” Hall said she also learned that there are no zoning laws in Walker County or Parrish regarding this type of material, and just how the railcars came to be sitting idle on the railroad tracks in Parrish in the first place.

“From what I understand the containers on those railcars were already en route to another location where they were initially being off-loaded,” Hall said. “But apparently an injunction came down from a judge sometime earlier this month that the containers could no longer be transported through the town of West Jefferson. So they had to halt the train at the nearest railroad spur location available, which just happened to be Parrish.” Hall said the residents of the town of West Jefferson and Big Sky Environmental have been battling it out over the sewage sludge for several months now. So she spoke with Parrish town attorney Tommy Carmichael on Monday to see what could be done about it being in Parrish. “Tommy suggested that I contact Big Sky Environmental to see what they planned to do about the containers, and when they planned to get them out of Parrish,” Hall said. “We had a nice conversation. They will be removing the containers starting Wednesday, but it will take about three weeks to get them all unloaded.” Hall said Big Sky also informed her that ADEM has required that the containers be lined with lime in an effort to reduce the odor from the sludge, and that haz-mat procedures were already in place in the event there is some type of spill. “I will also be meeting with the folks from Big Sky Environmental today and taking a closer at the containers myself,” Hall said. “Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about this stuff sitting in, or being hauled through, our town limits, and by law they do not have notify us anytime it is being done. But I’m glad we are now communicating with each other.” Hall said someone posted something on Facebook on Monday about the containers being in Parrish, which created what she called a little Facebook hysteria. “What this really all boils down to is a simple lack of communication. But I hope we have that issue resolved and we now have an open line of communication with Big Sky,” Hall said. “But I will say this: I’m really looking forward to those containers being removed from our town limits as soon as possible.”