The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is stepping in, at the request of Alabama officials, to help extinguish an underground landfill fire that has been burning in the state for nearly two months, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management said the EPA will lead the effort to put out the fire at the privately operated Environmental Landfill near the Birmingham suburbs of Moody and Trussville. The fire at the landfill, which takes in tree limbs and other vegetative waste, has been burning underground since late November, sending smoke over some neighborhoods in the state’s largest metro area and leaving residents frustrated by the lack of action.
“By authorizing the EPA to respond to this fire, we are ensuring it will be addressed in the fastest and safest way possible. It is imperative that this situation be solved and solved right for the sake of the folks in Moody and all people affected by this fire,” Ivey said in a statement issued by her office.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management said the EPA will determine the most appropriate method to extinguish the fire and hire a contractor from its list of qualified vendors to perform the work,
“Neither ADEM nor the county has the experience or expertise to put out a fire of this nature,” Alabama Department of Environmental Management Director Lance LeFleur said in a statement. “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.”
Residents near the fire said they have been frustrated by the inaction.
Trussville resident Breanne Cook told WBRC-TV that her family evacuated because of health concerns.
“You wake up at 4 a.m. in the middle of the night, and you smell burning rubber,” Cook said told the station. “There was even an (asthma) episode where I had to call the paramedics because of it.”
The privately owned landfill is not under state regulation because it does not take in household garbage or hazardous waste. The state environmental agency said the underground fire poses extreme hazards to firefighters and other responders because of the risks of cave-ins and flare-ups.
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