Choo ... Poo? Trainloads Of Human Waste Stink Up Alabama Town03:44
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Residents in Parrish, Ala., are complaining about the smell of several dozen train cars full of sewage that have been parked in the rail yard there for months while waiting to be transported to a nearby landfill. Here, the train cars of waste are pictured earlier, in the town of West Jefferson. (Courtesy town of West Jefferson)MoreCloseclosemore
Residents in Parrish, Ala., are complaining about the smell of several dozen train cars full of sewage that have been parked in the rail yard there for months while waiting to be transported to a nearby landfill. Here, the train cars of waste are pictured earlier, in the town of West Jefferson. (Courtesy town of West Jefferson)

There's been a public outcry for months in Parrish, Alabama, after a private company parked train cars there full of treated sewage from New York and New Jersey. The sewage is being transported to a nearby landfill, but many who are sick of the smell complain the process is moving too slowly.

Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd speaks with Dennis Pillion (@dennispillion), natural resources reporter for Alabama Media Group.

Interview Highlights

On what residents have been saying

"Clearly, nobody is happy with the situation. This is actually the second rail yard that [Big Sky Environmental] tried to use for this operation. They've kind of been chased out of one town already, and now they're into their second setup at a rail yard, and the complaints are still coming."

"Mostly the concerns are about odors. We haven't seen any reports of people getting sick."

Dennis Pillion

On why a train carrying human waste from New York and New Jersey is in Alabama

"Once upon a time, New York City, they used to just haul all that material offshore and dump it in the ocean. [The Environmental Protection Agency] told them they can't do that anymore, so they've been looking for other places to put it, and that includes landfills in upstate New York, they've been shipping it to Colorado and for a little more than a year now they've been shipping it to this landfill in Alabama."

On what's sitting in these train cars

"It's the solid material. They call 'sludge,' they call it 'biosolids' — there's several different names for it."

On the plan to move the train cars out of Parrish

"The town officials at the town of Parrish kind of gave the landfill an ultimatum. Because originally, they were not raising a stink — forgive the pun. But you know, originally, town officials, they didn't think this was going to be a big deal. They thought the rail yard was in a spot where the odors wouldn't travel, they didn't think it was going to be as many train cars as it turned out to be. But obviously they got a little bit more than they bargained for. So the town has given an ultimatum to the landfill to move the cars by a certain date, which has come and gone this week. The cars are still sitting there. So now I think the town is evaluating their options and seeing what they can do about this, which frankly may not be much."

On whether there are any health concerns

"Mostly the concerns are about odors. We haven't seen any reports of people getting sick. These biosolids are created by wastewater treatment plants all over the civilized world. And a lot of that stuff might be closer to you than you would like to think about."

This segment aired on April 6, 2018.

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