MOODY, Ala. (WIAT) — Six weeks ago, a landfill in Moody first caught fire and has burned continuously ever since.
Frustration has boiled over as impacted residents live with the fear of not knowing exactly what’s burning. While some testing has been done, much of it has been conducted by outside groups like Cahaba Riverkeeper, who say their findings are concerning to those who call this area home.
”This is 20-plus years of dumping stuff. So, there’s no telling what’s buried underneath there,” said David Butler, staff attorney for the Cahaba Riverkeeper.
Butler said he was contacted by a resident whose home backed up to the landfill and was forced to evacuate to get away from the constant barrage of smoke.
”We were first notified by a resident who was concerned about the impact to a creek that drains off the back side of the landfill in addition to concern about the smoke and what may be burning here,” Butler said.
However, concerns about the landfill began long before the fire ever started. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management or ADEM cited this landfill back in 2013 and 2017 for unauthorized dumping. Butler said that’s where the oversight stopped.
”We really want to get an understanding of why no action was taken before this fire started,” Butler said. “ADEM’s own records indicate that this was an unauthorized dump that was never cleaned up and at no point did they force the operator to do what they should have done, which is remove that material.”
St. Clair County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said he spoke with ADEM Director Lance LaFluer earlier in the week, who reportedly told him that their hands were tied.
“Just as you don’t think you have any regulations and authority to do some of these things, we don’t think we do either,” Batemon said.
Richard Harp lives 100 yards from the fire.
”I go into the room and pray for my boys and they’re coughing and it’s like, we’ve got to get out,” Harp said.
Nearby residents like Harp are less concerned about who is to blame and more concerned about life returning to normal and their family returning to their home.
”We had to go into a hotel and then into the Airbnb it came available yesterday and we are in it for the month of January,” Harp said. “We used our credit card to just try to get in there. It’s the only one we could find that would take our outside dogs.”
Butler said the fire has bothers him every time he comes out to the site and couldn’t imagine who could live around those conditions.
“And I’ve relatively short exposure compared to somebody who is here 24 hours a day,” he said. “There are people here that don’t have the means to go anywhere else. I don’t know how you live with it to be honest.”
Others have hope there may be relief in sight soon. On Tuesday, the St. Clair County Commission is expected to announce their plans for getting the fire out.