Waste dumping from a dog food manufacturer in Calhoun County is causing a big stink in a subdivision near White Plains.

The county and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) have stepped in and now claim the problem has been solved. However, nearby residents aren't so sure.

The odor came from a farm where the owner allowed Cherokee Environmental Resources to dump sludge from FITCO. The sludge, an animal byproduct, acted as a fertilizer to help grow hay and saved the farmer thousands of dollars. But for the people living in the Mountainview subdivision, off Choccolocco Road, the fertile field wasn't worth the impact on their daily lives.

"It's been resilient," said Mike Lovvorn, who has lived in Mountainview for 10 years. "It is not going away."

Lovvorn and other residents have complained to county leaders and ADEM about the odor since August. Calhoun County Commissioner Danny Shears said when he heard about it, he started looking into the origin of the smell. After finding out where it was coming from, he and Code Enforcement Officer Reggie Stewart soon realized there wasn't much they could do.

"Our hands were tied, so to speak, from a county standpoint," said Shears. "There is no ordinance on the books in the county about a foul odor.

"We just really didn't have anything to go with, and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management had issued a permit to Cherokee Environmental Resources to dump this stuff on the farm. They had to fill out the paperwork, they got permitted, and they started doing it."

Meanwhile, residents said they couldn't go outside. Some of the submitted complaints to ADEM from residents of Mountainview claimed the smell was causing them to become nauseous and have stomach problems. Others said their allergies were worsening, and their quality of life was being impacted.

Lovvorn said after growing up and working around farms, he knew the smell was much worse than regular fertilizer.

"We had to hurry up and shut our garage door, so it wouldn't get in the house," Lovvorn explained. "… The first time I smelled it, I thought there was a dead animal right beside my garage, so I'm looking around for some dead carcass or something, but it went beyond the dead smell and was like, 'Oh gah, it's in my mouth!' You had to pull your shirt over your nose."

Shears said Stewart contacted ADEM about the complaints, and after a second visit, he said ADEM acted.

"When they made a follow-up visit, they could smell the odor, and there were a few other things that showed up, and so they were actually written up for seven violations from ADEM," said Shears.

After the violations were reported, Shears said he learned from Cherokee Environmental that they had plans to pull out of Calhoun County.

"I am pro-business," Shears added. "I own two businesses, I'm all for businesses, and I know this stuff has to go somewhere. But in this particular case, it's just too close to a neighborhood where people are saying they're smelling a smell that's worse than anything they have ever smelled."

Shears held a meeting and told his constituents about the move. But Lovvorn said after residents were told the waste was being moved out, the stench worsened.

"They were all happy about it and said they were leaving, and they were packing up their stuff from the meeting and telling us all this bunch of political stuff," said Lovvorn. "But the next day, it was a worse smell than previously. It was like, 'We showed y'all!"

Time will tell if the sludge will be relocated, but neither FITCO nor Cherokee Environmental Resources have replied to a media request from 1819 News. In fact, the Anniston Star reported that a spokesman for Cherokee Environmental Resources refused to comment because he didn't "trust the press to report it honestly."

Now, Cleburne County and north Randolph County residents are growing concerned about where the sludge will be dumped next. Shears believes the waste will go in between Hollis Crossroads and Wedowee. He said the farm has been used for the same purpose before and should be away from residential areas.

"I believe both of the gentlemen, both at FITCO and Cherokee Environmental, do everything they possibly can to cut down on this odor, but it's just a terrible odor, and unfortunately, it was too close to a residential area here," Shears said.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

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