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They say smell is our strongest tool for memory; just look at the “nose of Nissan“. Unfortunately for some people in Alabama, the smells brought by the New York “poop trains” need no help to remember. Needless to say, this is not the first time the people of Alabama have been invaded by New Yorkers’ waste. In 2017, the fine folks of West Jefferson and Parrish, Alabama, were first confronted by the stinky cargo from up north. If there was any question, yes, these trains house millions of pounds of human feces meant for (sorry for the pun) dumping in Alabama. As if that weren’t bad enough the first time, now it’s happening again. 

freight trains
Freight trains | Ramesh Pathania/Mint via Getty Images

Why are New Yorkers dumping their waste in Alabama? 

Since the last time this smell issue arose, you can bet the DEM and the townspeople are keeping a close eye on Big Sky Environmental, an Alabama-based waste management company. The stinky shippers will be subject to unannounced quarterly inspections from here on out. 

Although it’s fair to say that Big Sky has a bit of a stain on their operation, this rail spur addition, while still not ideal, seems to be an attempt to de-stink the situation. After all, the reason this all came to light in the first place was that Big Sky stored the emptied, yet still soiled, trains in neighboring towns and even the state’s center Birmingham, AL. It was these trains that first assaulted the nostrils of Alabamians. 

According to USA Today, it’s common for Northern states to ship their waste to rural areas in the South, and landfills on inexpensive land can make good money from the practice. An Alabama attorney general once described one of Alabama’s landfills as “America’s biggest industrial pay toilet.”

After the townspeople of multiple nearby towns managed to block the trains with help from injunctions and new zoning laws, they eventually removed the funky trains from their small town. But now it’s happening again. 

How are the poop trains back? 

According to WVTM 13, an Alabama Department of Environmental Management inspector went to the Big Sky Environmental landfill at the beginning of the month, where a newly constructed rail spur connected to an existing freight line. 

On this line, the inspector found eight empty rail cars which had recently carried a fresh load of, well, you know. The company said these rail cars were shipped and unloaded within the last two weeks. 

Following this new discovery, the DEM issued a business violation notice to Big Sky, ordering it to cease rail ops until its permit is modified. The issue this time was that Big Sky’s permits do not allow it to modify railways. Now Big Sky is filing to update its permits to allow the rail spur. 

Alabama won’t take this sitting down

Instead of doing something exciting like cutting a car in half, these trains were charged with the smelly job of transporting human waste from New York and New Jersey to a landfill in northern Alabama. Like most things that seem strange or inexplicable, a local man seems to think money is behind the filthy trains. 

“I really never thought it was going to stop because I knew that Big Sky was very aggressive in getting this waste to this area and making the money they’re gonna make off of it,” commented David Brasfield of West Jefferson. “This is a community I’ve lived in 50 years, and I want to be able to stay here, but people don’t realize the odor, the scent, the flies.”

ALthough the locals aren’t likely to be thrilled, this new train yard, out near the landfill, might be a workable solution, but you can bet the nearby towns folks will be watching (and smelling) these New York trains closely. 


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