GADSDEN, Ala. (WIAT) — Neighbors in Etowah County are pushing back against plans for an animal rendering plant near the Gadsden airport.
State Senator Andrew Jones, who represents Etowah County, told CBS 42 he had secured a commitment from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to hold a public meeting in the near future.
If the project is approved, it would be on land owned by the Gadsden Airport Authority just off Steele Station Road.
Jones said he and other residents were only recently made aware of the project.
“This was all done in secrecy and government should just not work like that. People should be involved. People should have a right to comment,” said Jones.
Pilgrim’s Pride is interested in building a facility that would prepare animal parts for feed like pet food, Jones said.
“There could be up to 1.2 billion pounds of animal parts trucked in every year,” said Jones, who added that products would also need to be shipped out.
Nearby business owners are worried about the smell and impact on the community.
“We would have a lot of trucks, a lot of odor, they’re going to spill stuff on the road. Like I said this belongs somewhere in a cornfield somewhere,” said Trent Thraser, who owns a business across the street.
Trent Thrasher Construction, Choice Fabrications, and ZLA Solutions are among the businesses against the proposal.
All three companies are on the other side of Steele Station Road in the city limits of Rainbow City, but leaders in that municipality have no control over the project in Gadsden.
“There is about 1,000 employees within a few thousand feet that would have to put up with this. And like I said, we have many plants, we have a new church being built over here, close to the airport that would have to deal with this,” said Thrasher.
Some companies have hired legal representation to consider options.
Christie Knowles, an attorney representing Choice Fabrications, said she is encouraging neighbors to send complaints to ADEM.
“There has been an incredible outpouring of objections and concerns that placing an animal feed rendering facility in the middle of people’s homes and businesses and churches and schools, is just not an appropriate move,” said Knowles.
Knowles hopes the opposition will catch the attention of local leaders. While the Gadsden Airport Authority owns the land, Knowles said the Gadsden – Etowah Industrial Development Authority had also been involved in recruiting for the project.
She said neighbors have been kept in the dark about the ongoing efforts.
“We are hoping that by voicing those concerns that the city will reconsider and ask the facility to be located somewhere else in the county that is not so close to where people work and play,” said Knowles.
ADEM will need to issue a permit dealing with air quality and emissions. It may also have to consider permits for water discharge during construction and long term wastewater treatment.
So far, only the air quality permit is being considered, a spokesperson for ADEM told CBS 42.
According to ADEM, other concerns about traffic, aesthetics, noise and property value would need to be addressed through local zoning ordinances.
State Senator Jones said Gadsden could seemingly benefit by selling water to the plant or treating wastewater.
CBS 42 reached out to Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton. A spokesperson for the city said the mayor did not have a comment.
Lee Howard, the Chief Operating Officer for ZLA Solutions said plans to expand his business are on hold until an outcome is determined.
While the animal rendering plant could add around 30 jobs, Jones worries about the cost to the community.
“We recognize it is a vital industry and it is an industry somebody is going to have to do somewhere. We just question why it is in this location in an area that has a high concentration of businesses, churches, and schools,” said Jones.
According to ADEM, between 75 and 100 complaints have been submitted in the past few days.
A date for a public meeting has not been set, but ADEM said it could be anywhere between 45 days and two and a half months.
CBS 42 reached out to Pilgrim’s Pride for a statement but did not hear back.
Residents plan to address the issue at the next city council meeting. Stay with CBS 42 for updates.
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