An underground fire at an Alabama landfill has continued to pollute the air in eastern parts of the Birmingham region more than 50 days after a fire began underground, according to air quality monitors.
The monitors surrounding the Moody landfill are detecting pollution and neighbors are still complaining about smoke, local news outlets reported.
The air quality monitor closest to the fire registered unhealthy conditions on Monday morning, AL.com reported, although the monitor later reported improving air quality. Another air quality monitor in Trussville showed pollution levels that are acceptable, but may present a risk for some people with 24 hours or more of exposure, especially those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.
In late December, air quality readings well over the threshold for hazardous, which is worse than the unhealthy level, were common near the fire.
Jennifer Moore, who lives about 15 minutes from the landfill, told WBRC-TV she can smell the burning, especially when it rains.
Her son, 12-year-old Colton Moore, uses a ventilator when he sleeps. Jennifer Moore said the filter is now dark and almost completely covered in black, causing health fears.
“This is filling our lungs with toxins and poisons and it’s awful,” Moore said. “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 was filed in December against the owners and operators of the Environmental Landfill, Inc., which owns the site. The lawsuit, filed in St. Clair County, cites inspection reports from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. They note the presence of unauthorized waste at the landfill and describe the site as a fire hazard.
Representatives of the company have declined to comment to news outlets.
St. Clair County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said he still gets smoke complaints, but the fire is actually shrinking.
“It’s not burning more, it’s burning less,” he said.
He said ADEM officials told him the smoke hugs the ground in the mornings and evenings, making air quality worse.
St. Clair County has declared an emergency, but is not authorized to spend money on private property, Batemon said. He said the fire could take another month or more to burn out.
Environmental experts have warned against pouring water onto the fire, Batemon said, saying steam could carry more impurities into the air and runoff could pollute the Cahaba River.