(AL.com) — New York City has decided to halt an operation that sent train loads of partially treated sewage material to a landfill in Alabama.
Six wastewater treatment plants from New York City and one from New Jersey had been sending their biosolids -- the solid material left over from wastewater treatment processes -- to the Big Sky Environmental, LLC landfill in Adamsville for more than a year.
The operation sparked complaints over smells, flies and health issues at multiple locations in Jefferson and Walker Counties.
In December 2016, Big Sky received approval from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to begin using the biosolids, or sewage sludge, as alternative cover at the landfill.
The application included documents from seven wastewater treatment plants in the greater New York City area, seeking approval to send as much as 398,000 tons of sewage sludge to the landfill each year.
The first wave of complaints came from residents in and around the town of West Jefferson, near a rail yard that was used to offload the cargo containers from trains onto trucks for transport to the landfill.
The town filed a lawsuit against Big Sky, alleging that trucks spilled the sludge material onto roadways during transit to the landfill, and that the smells from the operation was detrimental to their quality of life.
Meanwhile, Jefferson County determined the rail yard Big Sky was using for the unloading was not zoned for that activity and a judge allowed them to enforce that zoning ordinance over objections from the company that owns the rail yard.
The unloading then moved to a rail yard further away in the Walker County town of Parrish, which decided at a special town council meeting in February that the landfill did not have the proper business license to operate at the rail yard and gave them three weeks to remove the dozens of rail cars that had been parked on the tracks, waiting for transport to the landfill.
The city of Birmingham complained to Norfolk Southern railroad when several dozen of the sludge cars were left on tracks in north Birmingham for at least a week, leading to complaints from residents near Finley Boulevard and 29th Avenue North.
The cars were moved from that location by the next day.