A Noxious Underground Landfill Fire Has Burned for Weeks in Alabama

A Noxious Underground Landfill Fire Has Burned for Weeks in Alabama

Nearby residents say the fumes are giving them nosebleeds, headaches, and trouble breathing.

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The Alabama landfill fire in mid-December 2022.
The Alabama landfill fire in mid-December 2022.
Photo: Moody Fire Department

An underground landfill fire has been smoldering since November, creating toxic smoke that has affected nearby residents in a rural Alabama county. Officials have called in the help of the Environmental Protection Agency to find a way to extinguish the fire.

The fire at the Environmental Landfill, Inc., dumping ground has been mostly underground in the unincorporated county of St. Clair. It’s about 15 miles northeast of Birmingham, between the suburbs of Moody and Trussville. Residents in those areas have said that the ongoing fire is making them sick, AL.com reported

The landfill is supposed to only legally accept green waste like leaves and fallen trees. But officials have found unauthorized waste at the landfill, like household appliances and tires, which are contributing to the dangerous fumes. The site is privately owned and is not under any state regulations because it does not “officially” take on hazardous waste, the Associated Press reported.

Seven weeks in the smoke: How Alabama residents are coping with Moody landfill fire

The fumes from the fire are affecting locals. Some residents have purchased air purifiers for their home, along with sealing their windows and doors to keep the smell out, AL.com reported. Some have left the area entirely.

In an interview with AL.com, area resident Brice Armstrong said spending time outside is now difficult because of the fire. “The smell has been getting really bad. It’s getting in the house,Armstrong said in an online video. “There’s a lot of times that we can’t do what we want to do just because of the smell.”

Jennifer Lewis, another area resident interviewed in AL.com video, initially moved to the county because she thought it would be a peaceful place to live with her family. Had Lewis known that unauthorized items had been illegally dumped in the landfill for years, she would have never moved to that area, she said. “Every single person in my house has health issues from this,” she said. “We’ve had nosebleeds, sore throats, burning throats, headaches.”

Alabama officials have asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to step in and help them extinguish the ongoing fire. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management announced this week that the agency has begun working with local groups to put out the flames. Local agencies have limited capacity for handling the fire and hope that the EPA’s involvement will help bring an end to it.

“Neither ADEM nor the county has the experience or expertise to put out a fire of this nature,” ADEM Director Lance LeFleur said in a press release this week. “The EPA utilizes contractors with experience and knowledge to do this type of work. ADEM and state and local officials have concluded the most effective and safe way to extinguish the fire is for the EPA to lead the effort, and we have entered into an arrangement with the EPA to make that happen.”

The support is especially important because the landfill fire is underground. This can expose first responders and firefighters to hazards like fire flare-ups or cave-ins, the AP reported.

Some locals want Alabama agencies like the Department of Environmental Management to take accountability for how long the fire has persisted. They’re angry that they’ve been exposed to fumes for two months. “[ADEM is] supposed to be protecting us and protecting the environment, and they’ve let this tragedy go on for so long,” Lewis said. “I also want the property owner to be held responsible for what he’s allowed.”

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Smoky landfill

Smoky landfill

The underground landfill fire in Alabama in December 2022.
The underground landfill fire in Alabama in December 2022.
Photo: Moody Fire Department
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Dangerous fumes

Dangerous fumes

This underground landfill fire in Alabama has burned since November 2022.
This underground landfill fire in Alabama has burned since November 2022.
Photo: Moody Fire Department
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Privately owned landfill

Privately owned landfill

Smoke over the Alabama landfill fire in December 2022.
Smoke over the Alabama landfill fire in December 2022.
Photo: Moody Fire Department
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Smoke spreading into the trees

Smoke spreading into the trees

A fire in this Alabama landfill has spread toxic smoke to nearby areas.
A fire in this Alabama landfill has spread toxic smoke to nearby areas.
Photo: Moody Fire Department
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Smoke in the distance

Smoke in the distance

The smoke from an Alabama landfill rising over St. Clair County.
The smoke from an Alabama landfill rising over St. Clair County.
Photo: Moody Fire Department
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Underground fire

Underground fire

Logs laying near the landfill fire in St. Clair County, Alabama.
Logs laying near the landfill fire in St. Clair County, Alabama.
Photo: Moody Fire Department
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Homes in the distance

Homes in the distance

Houses are not too far from the St Clair County landfill fire in Alabama.
Houses are not too far from the St Clair County landfill fire in Alabama.
Photo: Moody Fire Department
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Landfill fire in Spain

Landfill fire in Spain

Vegetable area with fire affected by a new fire near the old landfill of Pont de Vilomara, on July 18, 2022, Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain).
Vegetable area with fire affected by a new fire near the old landfill of Pont de Vilomara, on July 18, 2022, Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain).
Photo: Europa Press (AP)
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Putting out flames in New Dehli landfill

Putting out flames in New Dehli landfill

Fire officials try to douse a fire at the Bhalswa landfill in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Fire officials try to douse a fire at the Bhalswa landfill in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Photo: Manish Swarup (AP)
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Local fire fighters

Local fire fighters

A Delhi fire tender waits during a fire at the Bhalswa landfill in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
A Delhi fire tender waits during a fire at the Bhalswa landfill in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Photo: Manish Swarup (AP)
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Exposed to fumes

Exposed to fumes

A person picks through trash for reusable items as a fire rages at the Bhalswa landfill in New Delhi, April 27, 2022. Landfills are releasing far more planet-warming methane into the atmosphere from the decomposition of waste than previously thought, a study suggests.
A person picks through trash for reusable items as a fire rages at the Bhalswa landfill in New Delhi, April 27, 2022. Landfills are releasing far more planet-warming methane into the atmosphere from the decomposition of waste than previously thought, a study suggests.
Photo: Manish Swarup (AP)


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