The problem of what to do with waste from New York City is just a little too real for the residents of Parrish, Alabama. A train full of human waste from NYC—dubbed the “poop train” by the Associated Press—has become stranded outside their town, blanketing the area with the rancid smell of sewage. [Update: The train is gone!]
The Associated Press writes:
In Parrish, Alabama, population 982, the sludge-hauling train cars have sat idle near the little league ball fields for more than two months, Mayor Heather Hall said. The smell is unbearable, especially around dusk after the atmosphere has become heated, she said.
“Oh my goodness, it’s just a nightmare here,” she said. “It smells like rotting corpses, or carcasses. It smells like death.”
The poop train was originally bound for the Big Sky Landfill approximately 20 miles east of Parrish, which has been burying New Yorkers’ turds since early 2017. A federal ban on dumping New York’s human waste in the ocean birthed this poop train to Alabama, which has been the subject of controversy once before.
Actual, literal craploads used to be transferred from the train onto trucks in West Jefferson, Alabama, before town officials obtained an injunction to keep it out of their town. West Jeffersonians blamed the poop trucks for all sorts of horrifying ills, as the AP writes:
The sludge “smells of dead rotting animals as well as human waste,” West Jefferson’s attorney said in a lawsuit against Big Sky Environmental LLC. It also caused the community to become “infested with flies,” the complaint states.
This activity moved to Parrish after that, which lacks the zoning regulations to block the train cars. Parrish is now considering the adoption of zoning laws to prevent this from happening again, Parrish Mayor Heather Hall told the AP.
Parrish’s deep doo-doo has also interrupted daily life in the small town. Townspeople are considering moving or rescheduling childrens’ softball games to avoid the pervasive smell.
Parrish resident Sherleen Pike says she dabs peppermint oil under her nose to take away from the smell, but even that isn’t enough. She’s clearly fed up with the situation, telling the AP:
Would New York City like for us to send all our poop up there forever? They don’t want to dump it in their rivers, but I think each state should take care of their own waste.
Unfortunately for Pike, this train is but one of many hauling waste from other places into the deep south. As space for waste becomes harder to find, many have turned to states like Georgia and Alabama, where permissive zoning and inexpensive land are easy to come by.
Relief could come soon to the noses of Parrish, however. New York has halted shipping its biosolids (the remnants of its sewage treatment processes that end up on the poop train) to Alabama for the time being, and Hall is optimistic that the rest of the sludge will be off the train and shipped to the landfill soon.
Hall really hopes those cars are gone soon, as warmer temperatures will only intensify the oppressive stank befouling her town.
“We’re moving into the summer, and the summer in the South is not forgiving when it comes to stuff like this,” she told the AP.
Either way, as someone who once lived directly across from a train track, this is the absolute worst case scenario I can think of, short of it spilling out right into my yard.
UPDATE [11:02 p.m.]: Seems like the AP sat on this story before publishing it yesterday. (Man, my leg falls asleep when I do that for too long.) The poop train was emptied Tuesday, according to a Facebook post by Mayor Hall:
I have wonderful news. Big Sky has ended their operation in Parrish. The final container was transported and emptied Tuesday (4/17/2018) afternoon at 2 PM. The containers that remain at the rail yard are empties awaiting transport back North and should be removed soon.
I know this situatuion took longer than anyone, especially myself, had hoped it would take to come to an end. It was a very complicated situation that took the cooperation of multiple entities, especially, our legislative delegation in Montgomery. Senator Greg Reed has been a big fighter for the Town of Parrish in this manner, and we thank him for all he did to help with our situation.
I would also like to thank Norfolk Southern for requiring Big Sky to hire more drivers to move this material more expeditiously out of the Town of Parrish and all they did to help bring an end to our nightmare. We are extremely grateful for your help.
In the end, it took a little over 2 months for this material to leave Parrish. Other towns and cities have been fighting this material in their towns for years. While what happened in Parrish was, to our understanding, an unprecedented event, there are sttill small towns like Parrish fighting this situation on a smaller scale. I will say this over and over....this material does not need to be in a populated area...period. It greatly diminishes the quality of life for those who live anywhere near it.
Another issue we ran into is that there is no entity regulating this part of process. And that needs to change. That change can only come through legislative action. If there had been even a small amount of oversight this might never have happened.
For all of you in the media who have made our nightmare a huge public interest story, thank you. We know that one of the reasons that our nightmare is over is due to your coverage.
We are looking forward to moving on...
Breathe easier, Parrish!
[H/T Hemostatstatstat for the update!]