Plan to Put Out Underground Landfill Fire in the Works

The underground fire at an environmental landfill in Moody is contained and currently not threatening nearby houses. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Dan Dahlke is preparing a package to send to Montgomery that he hopes contains the cure to what ails residents who have suffered from the smoke of a Moody landfill fire that’s been smoldering since November.

“This has gone on way too long already,” said Dahlke, the St. Clair County engineer. “That’s sort of my feeling but, regardless of that, I want to make sure whatever we send to the state, I want to feel as positive as I can be that we’re not gonna create a bigger problem.”

Speaking with BirminghamWatch on Wednesday, Dahlke said he is still awaiting some information and getting things together to send to state officials.

St Clair County engineer Dan Dahlke and Moody Fire Marshal James Mulkey (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The property on fire is an environmental landfill, which is set up to take trees and brush and such. The fire is burning underground and breaking through at multiple locations on the surface, which complicates efforts to extinguish it.

Smoke from the fire has traveled up to 30 miles, annoying residents within its path and causing respiratory distress in some individuals sensitive to lung irritants.

The county engineer said his office has asked for valid methods for putting out the fire. He said three methods have been offered.

“All of them so far seem to be, from what we can see, doable,” he said. “We might have one more come in yet. I’ve been playing phone tag with a guy this morning.”

The St. Clair County Commission voted Tuesday basically to prepare a report on possible actions, Dahlke said. “We’ll get it and turn it into the (commission) chairman and then they would send it on to Governor (Kay) Ivey’s office.”

The county engineer said he was unsure which state agency will assess the submission. “I don’t know exactly where they will hand it off,” Dahlke said, “if it would be directly out of her office or if they hand it over to somebody like the Forestry Commission or something like that.”

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the EPA also have been involved in assessing the fire.

One of the companies working on a plan eventually backed out.

“They said their method … they just didn’t feel like it was gonna work,” Dahlke said. “I was very glad for them to be upfront and honest with it. They said with the deteriorating conditions they just didn’t feel like it was a safe way to do it.”

With people near and far suffering from the persistent smoke, Dahlke is anxious to move the process along.

“My goal is to get everything ready,” the county engineer said. “I hope we can get everything to the state this week.”