By Dennis Pillion
April 8, 2018 - Several dozen shipping containers filled with sewage sludge from New York and New Jersey have been parked at a rail yard in the small town of Parrish, Alabama since February, but town officials say the smell emanating from the cars won't impact the town's largest event of the year, scheduled for this weekend.
Parrish Mayor Heather Hall told AL.com that the Parrish Coal Fest will go on as planned this weekend, complete with a barbecue cook-off, car show, live music, and exhibits celebrating the town's coal mining heritage.
Hall said the cool weather has helped ease the smell emanating from the cars.
The sludge cars also backed up in north Birmingham for at least a week, likely more, as shown in these photos posted to Facebook by Jerri Mason. Mason described the odor as a "death smell."
Photo by Jerri Mason
"Because the temperatures are so low, [the smell] is not a problem," Hall said Friday amid a flurry of activity to prepare for the festival.
The event will go on as scheduled today from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The event will be held at the Parrish Community Center, the old Parrish High School, which is just over a hill from the rail yard where the train cars have been parked.
Hall -- who has gone on national news outlets in recent weeks to talk about how the smells from the train have impacted her town -- said the situation is improving at the rail yard. At one point, Hall said more than 252 containers were sitting on trains waiting to be hauled by truck about 20 miles to the Big Sky Environmental landfill in Adamsville.
"A lot of the containers are gone," Hall said. "We drove by this morning and over half of them were gone, so they are really working to try and help us with that and I'm really thankful for that."
The containers are loaded with a material called sewer sludge or biosolids, which is the solid material left behind after conventional wastewater treatment processes.
The landfill in Adamsville got approval in December 2016 from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to import the sludge from seven wastewater treatment plants in New York and New Jersey to use as alternative cover for the landfill. According to the application, the biosolids will be mixed with dirt and spread over top of the landfill cells to encourage plant growth.
The sewage sludge provides a rich fertilizer to encourage plant growth at the landfill site.
Photo by Alabama Department of Environmental Management
However, since that approval came through, local residents have been raising a stink since the trains began passing through their towns.
The trains first started rolling into Parrish in February, after being blocked from using a different rail yard in Jefferson County. The county argued that the loading and unloading of the containers at a rail yard there constituted a zoning violation due to the obnoxious odors.
The trains also were parked for at least a week on tracks inside the Birmingham city limits, but were moved from there after complaints from Birmingham residents.
It's unclear what will happen after the last of the containers are moved from the rail yard in Parrish.
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection told reporters last month New York City would no longer send its sludge to the Big Sky landfill, but it's uncertain whether the landfill will bring in the material from other cities or wastewater treatment plants.
CoalZoom.com - Your Foremost Source for Coal News