Residents in a rural Alabama county have been dealing with the effects of an underground landfill fire that has been smoldering since November. The fire at the privately-owned Environmental Landfill, Inc. has created toxic smoke that has affected nearby residents and their health, causing nosebleeds, headaches, and difficulty breathing.
The landfill, located in the unincorporated county of St. Clair, is supposed to only legally accept green waste, such as leaves and fallen trees. However, officials have found unauthorized destruction at the landfill, including household appliances and tires, contributing to the dangerous fumes. The site is privately owned and not under any state regulations because it does not officially take on hazardous waste.
Residents in the surrounding areas have reported the ongoing fire is making them sick. Some have purchased air purifiers for their homes, sealed their windows and doors to keep the smell out, and even left the area entirely. In an interview, area resident Brice Armstrong said that spending time outside is now difficult because of the fire. “The smell has been getting awful. It’s getting in the house,” he said.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to step in and help extinguish the fire. Local agencies have limited capacity for handling the fire and hope the EPA’s involvement will help end it. The support is significant because the landfill fire is underground, which can expose first responders and firefighters to hazards like fire flare-ups or cave-ins.
However, some locals want Alabama agencies like the Department of Environmental Management to take accountability for how long the fire has persisted. They’re angry that they’ve been exposed to fumes for two months. “[ADEM is] supposed to be protecting us and protecting the environment, and they’ve let this tragedy go on for so long,” said area resident Jennifer Lewis. “I also want the property owner to be held responsible for what he’s allowed.”
The situation in St. Clair county serves as a reminder of the importance of proper waste management and holding those responsible accountable for their actions. We must take steps in our communities to reduce waste and support sustainable practices. In addition, we must advocate for stricter regulations and enforcement to ensure the health and safety of all residents. Let’s take action and ensure this kind of tragedy doesn’t happen again.
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