Moody Landfill Burns Underground Prompting State of Emergency Declaration

A fire that began more than a month ago at Moody Landfill in Alabama continues to smolder, creating "considerable smoke" and environmental hazards, according to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

Stefanie Valentic, Editorial Director

January 4, 2023

2 Min Read
landfill fire
toddmedia/Getty Images

A fire that ignited more than a month ago at Moody Landfill near Birmingham, Ala. continues to smolder, creating "considerable smoke" and environmental hazards, according to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM).

The agency published a statement about the blaze at the end of December, describing the site as one largely containing yard waste such as leaves, limbs, trees and shrubs that have been dumped over the years.

"The smoke is similar to that associated with a forest fire," the agency stated.

On Jan. 3, 2023, official declared a state of emergency to take more "aggressive efforts" to fight the fire, according to news reports. Dozens of complaints about air quality and smoke have poured into state and local agencies.

Local NPR station WBHM reported about the numerous violations the Moody Landfill has received over a five-year time span. According to the outlet, the ADEM found illegal waste such as scrap tires, appliances, shingles and demolition materials at the site in 2017. 

Inspectors also discovered large amounts of yard waste and "other unauthorized waste like 'medical or infectious waste, industrial wastes, or hazardous waste.'" One memo from a decade ago spoke about the potential for fires at the site. Violations were issues in 2013 and 2017. 

As a response, the landowner's family put up signs about the type of waste that is allowed at the landfill and said they had diverted the waste to another site. A recent inspection in 2020 showed that was not the case. Moody Landfill was last inspected in August 2022, and the ADEM once again found construction and demolition waste piled on top of yard waste.

In a statement made on Facebook on December 28, EMA Director Patrice Kurzejeski posted:

St Clair County EMA and your County Commissioner Chairman, Stan Batemon, have visited the site many times. St Clair County does realize and empathize with you and your family concerning your living conditions. Please know efforts from your local County Commission, State Senator/Representative, and Federal Senators/Representatives to identify a solution to this fire have not ceased. We have been working on this since the first day it was apparent that the landfill would continue to burn. I am sure you have heard our hands were tied due to the landfill being private property. But, with the continued push from your elected officials, we may be closer to a resolution very soon. Please continue to monitor social media and local news for updates.

The ADEM announced it was working in conjunction with firefighting personnel including the Moody Fire Department and the Alabama Forestry Commission such as the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency. 

Officials likened the underground blaze to the incident in Centralia, Pa., a coal town that has largely been abandoned after a fire began in a coal mine in 1962 and continues to burn today. It's likely that the entire Moody Landfill site will need to be decommissioned.


About the Author(s)

Stefanie Valentic

Editorial Director, Waste360

Stefanie Valentic is the editorial director of Waste360. She can be reached at [email protected].


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