Landfill Fire Continues to Spread Toxic Air Pollution in Alabama for Over 50 Days
For over 50 days, an underground fire at the Moody landfill north of Birmingham, Alabama has continuously polluted the air, according to local air quality monitors. While air quality has improved slightly in recent days, it remains higher than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers an acceptable air quality index.
According to AL.com, the local air quality index at the monitor closest to the underground fire read 178 on Monday morning. The EPA considers an air quality index between 0 and 50 to be good and for 51 and 100 to be moderate or acceptable. The 178 reading falls in the red, or unhealthy, category, in which, “Some members of the general public may experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.”
In December 2022, the air quality index readings near the fire were frequently higher than 500, which is considered hazardous.
Officials state that the fire isn’t spreading, but the local St. Clair County has declared an emergency.
“It’s not burning more, it’s burning less,” Stan Batemon, St. Clair County Commission Chairman, told AL.com. “It’s a smoke issue, and then of course the wind direction. If it blows it in direction back towards Moody, I don’t get as many calls because a lot of that is a wooded area. If it goes toward Carrington Estates in Trussville, then I get a lot of calls.”
Local residents have complained that they continue to smell harsh burning smells, and one resident, Jennifer Moore, told WBRC that she noticed a significant difference in residue on her son’s air purifier filters.
“This is filling our lungs with toxins and poisons and it’s awful,” Moore told WBRC. “Something needs to be done, because I can just see in 15 years the infomercial that comes on and tells you ‘if you were affected by the Moody fires’ and all of that, because it’s bad.”
A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Environmental Landfill, Inc., owner of the landfill where the fire continues to burn, as well as additional owners and operators of the site. The lawsuit cites Alabama Department of Environmental Management inspection reports, which note that the site is a fire hazard, The Associated Press reported. In the lawsuit, plaintiffs reported sore throat and breathing complications, as well as severe asthma symptoms.
“The smoke and the smell are very impactful on your everyday life,” the plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Ekonen told AL.com. “Depending upon the weather conditions in which way the winds blowing, you may go to bed, smelling that smoke, and then wake up smelling it, and it just kind of can can impact your entire day.”
The legal team is recruiting additional plaintiffs who may have been impacted by the fire and poor air quality.
Batemon estimates the fire could take a month or longer to burn out, and environmental experts have warned against using water to put out the fire, as this could worsen air pollution and lead to water pollution from runoff.
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