The infamous “shitty trains” that transported sewage sludge from New York to a landfill in Alabama could be back in service.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management issued a notice of violation to the Big Sky landfill after inspectors found the landfill had brought waste railcars through a new rail yard built on the property of the landfill.

The shipping containers ADEM photographed during a site visit were empty, but bore the logo of a company specializing in shipping sewage sludge and other waste, with the same company transporting hundreds of containers of sludge to Big Sky in 2017 and 2018.

The new rail yard was not part of the landfill’s operating license, and on February 2 ADEM ordered Big Sky to “cease and forfeit the operation of the rail yard.” waste until the permit is amended appropriately”.

Allowing the import of waste by rail is considered a “minor modification” by the ADEM code.

Big Sky Environmental LLC, which operates the landfill, did not immediately respond to messages from seeking comment.

The landfill, located about 20 miles northwest of Birmingham, came to national attention in 2018 when it began accepting shipping containers filled with sewage sludge from water treatment facilities worn out in New York.

Sewage sludge, or biosolids, is the solid leftover from wastewater treatment plants. As water is treated and discharged into a river or other body of water, solids are left behind. These materials are usually either sent to a landfill or sometimes mixed with water to be used as fertilizer.

The Big Sky landfill did not have a rail yard on its premises in 2018, so dozens if not hundreds of container loads full of biosolids sat on the rail tracks in the greater Birmingham area for weeks waiting that the trucks unload the containers of waste water. and transport them to the landfill.

This generated numerous overpowering odor complaints in Jefferson and Walker counties, including within Birmingham city limits.

The sludge train stopped in 2018 after the New York City Department of Environmental Protection announced it would stop sending sludge to the landfill after complaints.

Big Sky Environmental also pledged to stop accepting sewage sludge from New York during its permit renewal process in 2018.

But now ADEM records show the dump has a new yard on its property and at least some shipping containers were unloaded there in 2022.

The ADEM inspector noted during a site visit on February 1 that “a marshalling yard has been built within the limits of the installation for the rail transport of waste”, and that the use of such a facility was not included in the landfill permit or operating plan. .

The inspector also noted the presence of empty shipping containers. According to the inspection report, Big Sky operations manager John Click told ADEM that “a load of eight railcars had been received by rail two weeks prior” and that the materials had been released. landfill for disposal.

Empty shipping containers at the Big Sky landfill in Adamsville, Alabama, documented during a site visit by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management on February 1, 2022.Alabama Department of Environmental Management

Photos from the ADEM site visit report show that the empty containers bear the “EPIC” logo, for the Environmental Protection Improvement Society.

EPIC is part of a company called Synagro which specializes in transporting waste such as sewage sludge, coal ash, contaminated soil and other industrial waste through a “national rail network”. The 2018 poo train cars also had the EPIC logo.

Additional records from ADEM show that the landfill received approval to receive special waste from a sewage treatment plant in Long Island, New York and one in Newark, New Jersey.

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