GADSDEN, Ala. (WIAT) — Dozens of neighbors showed up at Tuesday’s Gadsden City Council meeting to voice opposition to a proposed rendering plant.
For weeks, residents have shared concerns over odors, spills, impacts to future development and the impacts on the environment.
Due to space limitations inside the council meeting, several citizens made signs and chanted from a window outside the city council chambers so that members inside could see and hear them.
“It is at your door, you can stop this. They are asking for your help,” Christie Knowles, an attorney who has been involved in the opposition, said.
According to Gadsden City Council members, the project came from the state of Alabama. Leaders said they are just now learning about some of the details because of confidentiality agreements.
While the project is expected to bring around 90 jobs and about $70 million in economic impacts, neighbors fear it will be a detriment to the community.
“I am begging you. I am pleading with you, don’t do this,” Joe Taylor, who is mayor of nearby Rainbow City, said.
The plant would be near the airport in Gadsden city limits, but Rainbow City is just a stone’s throw away from the site.
“I just can hardly believe that this is the way to go. It is an experiment. It is a test and what if it fails?” Taylor asked.
The Coosa Riverkeeper spoke Tuesday about possible impacts to waterways that flow into the Coosa River.
“Coosa Riverkeeper doesn’t have faith that the negative impact of this facility could be mitigated with strong permits. On contrary, we anticipate weak permits that are not protective of water quality and air standards as well as poor enforcement of said permits by ADEM,” Justinn Overton, Executive Director for Coosa Riverkeeper, said.
A representative for Pilgrim’s Pride said the company is using new technology to ensure they are a good neighbor.
“The entire facility would be under negative pressure, so the whole concept is you bring the trucks within the facility itself, you never let the odors escape, you’d have to force a door open because of that negative air pressure,” Cameron Bruett, head of corporate affairs, said.
Bruett said the technology is already in use at other plants that Pilgrim’s Pride does not own.
“The technology is proven, and we can take you places and show it to you. This is not a pipe dream, this is not an experiment, this is not a proof of concept, this technology is being used today. We can just bring it here to Gadsden,” Bruett continued.
Pilgrim’s Pride continues to work to try to arrange a plant tour for members of the Gadsden City Council. Bruett said he’s glad to see Gadsden councilmembers following the process.
“People should go through all the facts, and the city of Gadsden should go through all of the facts to make sure they make the best decision for their city, whether that includes us or excludes us,” Bruett said.
Our entire interview with Bruett can be found below.
During Tuesday’s meeting, one neighbor told Gadsden leaders that the city needs new jobs since losing the Goodyear plant.
The owner of a company near the site said there are close to 200 jobs already available in the area currently.
Several council members expressed frustrations over threats and accusations of secrecy during the process.
City leaders aren’t expected to consider any incentives for the project until Pilgrim’s Pride hears back from ADEM on an air permit and the FAA on the height of buildings near the airport site.
A public hearing will be part of the ADEM permitting process, but so far no date has been set.
Stay with CBS 42 for updates.
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