Once you put your waste in the bin, does it ever cross your mind again? A statewide survey performed by Alabama department of Environmental Management estimated that 6.5 pounds of solid waste is produced by each person living in Alabama each day. In Alabama, there are 173 landfills, but only 20 recycling centers. With over five million people living in Alabama, landfills are producing on average 14,400 tons of garbage per day. Landfills in Alabama are polluting our ground water, hurting our farms, and poisoning everyone around them. Landfills are designed with their only purpose being to store garbage. When it rains, the rain mixes with water soluble parts of the waste forming leachate, often called "garbage soup." In addition to containing potentially hazardous components, leachate also contains dissolved metals, salts, and copious amounts of anions and cations (e.g., bicarbonate or sulfate). Although non-hazardous, these anions and cations are found at concentrations much higher than those present in natural groundwater, potentially lowering the pH of the water. If large amounts of leachate enter the groundwater, it may lead to the aquifer being unusable for drinking water. Since eighty percent of public water systems in Alabama depend on ground water for at least part of their water supply, it is important that we keep this water clean and free of waste. Of all the things Alabama is known for, landfills should not be one of the. The largest hazardous waste landfill is located in Emelle, Alabama, located along the black belt soil region. This landfill is a product of environmental racism, greatly impacting the residents of rural Sumter County. Esther Calhoun, resident of Perry County (neighbor to Sumter County), said that "The pecan trees, they don't bear anymore," as a result of the toxic waste. Illinois-based Waste Management claims that the reason Emelle was chosen was geographical, due to the Selma
Chalk layer of soil that is hundreds of feet thick. The company says that the soil can safely hold the dangerous chemicals for thousands of years. However, under this chalk layer is the Eutaw Aquifer, source of most of the drinking water for the southernmost regions of Alabama. If there are any leachate leaks, it could flow into the fertile soil, destroying the agricultural industry and farm lands that generate about $5.2 billion each year.
Part of what makes leachate so dangerous is the deadly effects they can have on human life. Leachate contains heavy metals and chemicals that when coupled with acute exposure can have devastating effects. For example, long term exposure to mercury, just one of the chemical compounds commonly found in leachate, are comprised of: tremors, memory loss, seizures,
coma, acute kidney failure, and anemia following gastrointestinal bleeding. The town of Anniston, Alabama won a settlement from Monsanto, one of the worlds largest chemical companies, due to the amount of chemicals linked to cancer and liver damage that had leaked into a local creek, turning it red.
The people of rural Alabama are tired of the devastating effects landfills have been causing in their lives. They have had to deal with their drinking water, farms, and even lives being put at risk because of the careless nature of big landfills. The companies that own these landfills have shown how little they care for the people who neighbor them. It is time for Alabama to rid itself of the toxic waste poisoning its land.
“Alabama Department of Environmental Management.” Adem.alabama.gov, 2008, https:// www.adem.alabama.gov/alEnviroRegLaws/files/FinalSWMP_08.pdf. Davidson, Curt. Emelle, Alabama: Home Of The Nation's Largest Hazardous Waste Landfill, http://websites.umich.edu/~snre492/Jones/emelle.htm.
“Economic Impact of Agriculture.” The Economic Contributions and Impacts of U.S. Food, Fiber, and Forest Industries, https://economic-impact-of-ag.uada.edu/alabama/.
Eldridge, Audrey. “Landfills: Impact on Groundwater.” Water Encyclopedia, http:// www.waterencyclopedia.com/La-Mi/Landfills-Impact-on-Groundwater.html.
“Introduction - Alabama Department of Environmental Management.” Adem.alabama.gov, http://adem.alabama.gov/moreInfo/pubs/GWpart1.pdf.
Milman, Oliver. “'We're Not a Dump' – Poor Alabama Towns Struggle under the Stench of Toxic Landfills.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 15 Apr. 2019, https:// www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/apr/15/were-not-a-dump-poor-alabama-towns struggle-under-the-stench-of-toxic-landfills.
O'Hagan, Sean. “Toxic Neighbour: Monsanto and the Poisoned Town.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 20 Apr. 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/apr/20/ mathieu-asselin-monsanto-deutsche-borse-anniston-alabama.
Olinger, David. “Alabama Grows Wary of Serving as a National Toxic Waste Burial Site.” Tampa Bay Times, 15 July 1990, https://www.tampabay.com/archive/1990/07/15/ alabama-grows-wary-of-serving-as-a-national-toxic-waste-burial-site/.
Onyedikachi, Amah. “Leachate: An Avoidable Threat to Human Health and the Environment- by Amah Onyedikachi.” Medium, International Climate Change Development Initiative Africa, 13 Aug. 2020, https://medium.com/climatewed/leachate-an-avoidable-threat-to human-health-and-the-environment-by-amah-onyedikachi-6593f1fbf3d4.