Jefferson County neighbors complain about sludge being applied to land near homes, river

Local News

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Neighbors in northern Jefferson County are worried about the impacts of a sludge that is being applied to land near the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River.

For the past week, several neighbors have complained about odors coming from material that is being hauled in and spread at various times throughout the day.

“Stink! That’s the only way you can describe it. You can’t pleasantly sit on your porch or anything else without this odor,” resident Teresa Adaway said.

The Adaways’ home borders the property where the material is being spread. The land is on a reclaimed coal mine.

“We lived through the Drummond strip mining and was tormented through all of that, and now this,” Adaway said.

Residents told CBS 42 they have seen smaller tanker trucks and 18-wheelers bringing in the material that has been described as both liquids and solids.

“Even with your windows up and the air conditioner and heater off and everything the scent still permeates into your car,” said Adaway

While many of the trucks are unmarked, neighbors reported that one of the vehicles was part of Denali Water Solutions.

In an excerpt from the company’s story from its’ website, Denali states that it recycles waste in ways that are sustainable, beneficial to the land, and reduce or eliminate the use of landfills. Denali advertises offering innovative and economical solutions for the management, handling, disposal, and conversion of many types of organic waste materials.

A spokesperson for Denali released the following statement to CBS 42:

Denali Water Solutions collects residuals from a food production facility and transports the material to the land application site. The material is approved by the State of Alabama for beneficial use.

Denali Water Solutions

According to Denali, the landowner provided written consent for the company to apply the material to the land. A nutrient management plant was provided to the landowner and the state of Alabama, a Denali spokesperson said.

This location receives beneficial use material from food production facilities in Alabama, according to Denali.

Despite concerns from members of the public and environmental organizations, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management recently approved changes to the state’s biosolid waste program.

During public hearings on the matter in 2020, ADEM said the changes would allow for better regulation and enforcement of rules for land application.

Farmers have argued that biosolids can serve as a cost-saving fertilizer with a benefit to the land. Companies can also approach landowners with offers to dispose of the material under regulation from ADEM.

Neighbors like Adaway said they’re familiar with animal odors and fertilizers in the rural area, but said the recent smell is unlike anything they’ve experienced in the past.

“It does not smell like livestock manure, it smells like death. It smells like rotting flesh,” said Adaway, who fears odors will only get worse with warmer weather approaching.

It’s unclear what is in the material being spread near Mt. Olive, but it is a concern for the Black Warrior RiverKeeper.

“Nutrients coming off of this site could greatly impact the river. There could be elevated bacteria levels in this waste, which can make it unsafe for people to recreate here as we get into spring it could be unsafe to swim and fish,” Nelson Brooke, with the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, said.

Members of Brooke’s staff are working to learn more about the material, but information has been slow to come.

“We have not yet seen a permit for any of the parameters required to be made public by the permitting process. It is not available on ADEM’s website, so a lot of question marks still,” Brooke said.

Brooke took photos and recorded video of some of the dumping last week. He said it was a mixture of solids and liquids coming from the truck.

“I saw four colors of solids on the ground, orange, brown, black and tan. I know it stinks to high hell because I smelled it the whole way I went home after I was out here,” said Brooke.

A spokesperson for Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens said the county has received some complaints and is currently investigating to learn more.

CBS 42 reached out to the property owner to learn more, but did not receive a response.

ADEM responded to CBS 42 with the following statement Tuesday:

“ADEM is investigating complaints from residents about foul odor and other concerns related to the operation of Denali Water Solutions in north Jefferson County. ADEM takes the concerns of residents near the site seriously and is looking at several aspects of the operation to determine whether the company’s land application of waste in the area is being conducted in compliance with ADEM regulations. After all relevant information is gathered, ADEM will determine the appropriate actions, if any, will be taken.”

ADEM

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