Alabama Town Is Free of New York’s Sludge Train, but the Stench Remains
Posted April 19, 2018 11:29 p.m. EDT
No town ever wants a “poop train” nearby, and should that fate befall your town, you would not want to see a news article describing it as a saga.
But after a train full of human excrement sludge from New York City traveled to Alabama, only to be bureaucratically stuck outside the 1,000-person town of Parrish for more than two months, engulfing the town with a suffocating stench — yeah, that was a saga.
And now, at long last, the saga is over. The odor, however, is lingering.
“It smells like rotting animals or a dead carcass. It seems like there’s a dead animal nearby,” Mayor Heather Hall of Parrish said Thursday. “And it’s not like you just get a whiff of it where it’s just a subtle smell. It is so overpowering you cannot go outside.”
On Wednesday, Hall announced that she had “wonderful news”: The last of the sludge had been removed, and the town was free from the 42-car train with the awful nickname.
The foul odor had been difficult to avoid, she said, permeating all 2 square miles of the town, about 40 miles northwest of Birmingham.
It was especially horrid in the early evening, but you could smell it throughout the day. Little League baseball games were canceled, and you could forget about enjoying the nice weather on the front porch. Turning on the air-conditioning would just bring the smell inside.
A federal ban forbids New York from disposing of its treated sewage waste in the ocean. So the city routinely ships it to the South, where landfills can offer better bargains. A nearby one, Big Sky, had accepted the city’s sludge since 2017, according to The Associated Press.
But West Jefferson, a town near the landfill, was fed up with the smell as the cargo was transferred from trains to trucks. The town got an injunction to stop the trains in January, which led to the one being parked outside Parrish.
Parrish was not happy. Last week, the town’s council issued an ultimatum, saying it would file a lawsuit and injunction against Big Sky if the rail cars weren’t removed by April 23, according to the Daily Mountain Eagle, a local newspaper.
Big Sky did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday.
The ordeal came to an end as trucks hauled the contents off to the Big Sky landfill in Adamsville, about 20 miles to the west. Hall said there were more than 10 million pounds of the material in almost 400 containers.
Hall said the town did not have zoning laws to prevent such a train’s presence because officials had never thought they would be necessary. That’s an oversight she said the town hoped to fix. For the time being, the town denied Big Sky’s business license “so it’s illegal for them to do business in Parrish.”
She wasn’t thrilled by the common nickname for the train in news stories, which she said brought the cutesy emoji to mind. Rest assured, she said, this was a serious quality-of-life issue for residents.
“It does disrupt life,” she said. “It’s just not a good thing to have in a populated area. There needs to be a better way to handle this material and to dispose of this material.”