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'Poop train' carrying human waste cleared after months squatting in Alabama town

Parrish — population 982 — became the butt of jokes after complaining that the smell from the train was making the outdoors unbearable.
Image: New York City sewage train
Containers that were loaded with tons of New York City sewage sludge in Parrish, Alabama on April 12, 2018.Jay Reeves / AP

Alabama's "poop train" is no longer raising a stink.

The mayor of the tiny town of Parrish posted Wednesday on Facebook that train cars carrying human waste from New York City were finally emptied and cleared, and "should be removed soon." The cars were sitting idle for more than two months after a neighboring county went to court to block the train's passage.

"I know this situatuion (sic) took longer than anyone, especially myself, had hoped it would take to come to an end," Hall wrote.

The town of 982 residents northwest of Birmingham gained notoriety — and became the butt of several jokes — after complaining that the smell from the train was making the outdoors unbearable, sending the odor of excrement wafting whichever way the wind was blowing.

"Can't come out here and barbecue like I used to," Parrish resident Robert Nash told NBC affiliate WVTM this week. "I know the flies were getting in my house."

Before the train cars were emptied, about 10 million pounds of human waste were on the train that came from waste management facilities in New York. The train was supposed to go through Jefferson County, but the town of West Jefferson obtained an injunction, arguing in court earlier this year that the loading and unloading of containers violated its zoning laws.

But Parrish has no such rules that would prevent the waste from being stored before it's unloaded at Big Sky Environmental, a private landfill about 20 miles away.

The landfill has been accepting "biosolids" from New York since last year. But New York said it would stop sending shipments there — at least for now.

Experts say some cities send their waste to Alabama and other Southern states due to low landfill fees and lax zoning laws.

And New York City has set a goal of sending "zero waste" to landfills by 2030, according to its long-term strategy "One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City."

Environmental advocates have decried the way larger cities dump their waste in poorer communities that lack the political clout to stop it. In Alabama, residents of Parrish said they felt blindsided by the sudden horrid smells that enveloped their town since late January.

But while the issue of poop in Parrish appears to be flushed out for now, the mayor said that other communities are in need of relief as well.

"While what happened in Parrish was, to our understanding, an unprecedented event, there are sttill (sic) small towns like Parrish fighting this situation on a smaller scale," the mayor wrote. "I will say this over and over .... this material does not need to be in a populated area ... period."