Taking Action: Toxic Burn Pile In West Limestone Worries Neighbors

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - Tranquil farmland nestled in the Lester community of Limestone County.

"This is just like a little heaven out here," said resident Margie Perry.

On April 22, though, debris from the demolished L&S Food Market in Athens was hauled out to private property off Leggtown Road.

About four days later, the rubble was burned and, as of May 30, continues to smolder.

"The smoke was so bad you could not even come outside your home," said Perry.

Perry lives down the road from the burn pile.

Throughout the last month, she and several of her family members came down with bronchial infections.

Her son has spent the last week in Madison Hospital with pneumonia and Perry says the smoke from the burn pile may be to blame.

"The doctors said that that could very well be the reason," said Perry.

She and several of her neighbors called the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to inspect the building debris.

"They came and checked it out and said that it was asbestos, tar, insulation, and everything in it," said Perry.

ADEM performed its inspection on May 6.

It then issued a notice of violation to the owner of the property, Johnny Abernathy, which he received on May 10.

ADEM then received notice from Limestone County District 3 Commissioner Bill Latimer on May 16 indicating that the Commission "contributed to the creation of the unauthorized solid waste dump at the referred location."

On May 29, County Commissioner Stanley Menefee was issued the same notice of violation.

The notice described the unauthorized solid waste dump site as a menace to public health.

Abernathy and the Commission have 30 days from receipt of the letter to submit a written remediation plan.

Once the plan is approved by ADEM, they have another 30 days to complete the removal.

Menefee could not be reached for comment.

WHNT News 19 spoke with Abernathy, but he refused to speak on camera. He did say that he and Latimer were working on a clean-up plan.

When Latimer was reached for comment, he said, "my attorney has advised me to not comment on that matter at this time."

He did mention that the issue will likely be up for discussion at next Tuesday's county commission meeting.


  • freak-out

    And if it causes my daughter to get sick, I will surely sue the county for their stupidity. Take your waste to your backyard if you want to dump it so bad. Not to your fellow residents who were unaware. Y’all are so stupid.

  • Pony Girl

    We are right across the creek. The smoke blows straight into our barn. I was not overly concerned until I found out it was toxic. Now I am worried my families health and all our animals. Abernathy it sounds has 2 months to fix meanwhile we have to breath it in for 2 more months. Not happy about that.

  • Leggtown

    Thank you WHNT 19 for coming out and doing this story, please do a follow up story if you can, it seems we are all on are own out here.

    In my opinion, this is no longer a civil matter, this is criminal what is going on here and the people involved should be arrested for illegal dumping, littering, air and water pollution and causing public harm. And of all the places to do something like this, right next to Shoal Creek that feeds into the Elk River. Really? So, not only are the fumes causing us harm, but this waste is running off into the creek ever time it rains. AL-EPA, what is really in this burn pile, have you tested it yet? I’ve never smelled anything so rancid and irritating in all my life. It’s so bad at times it actually makes your eyes burn if the wind blows it this way.

    It looks like a few powerful people from the County dumped this toxic crap thinking they could get away with it and it ended up smoking all of us out in this valley and made a bunch of us sick. A few weeks ago I was up almost all night sick as a dog from breathing this smoke and had to take a sick day from work; I almost never call in sick. The smell was so thick in my house, I thought something was on fire inside, I’m surprised my smoke alarm did not go off.

    My son and wife have also been sick and have had breathing and sinus problems due to this smoke. This smell has settled into our AC system and we have been breathing this garbage on and off for over a month.

    This mess is still burning even thru all this rain and we are still breathing this smoke over 5 weeks later, nobody seems to be doing anything about it. Just another example of the Gov getting over on the little guy…..

  • Brian

    Stanley Menefee is responsible for all this. He bought the building with no inspection clause in the contract. He then paid $7900 for an inspection and demolition plan that he did not follow.

    He knows it has asbestos.

    Call him on his cell phone 256 874 0071 or go to the commission office tomorrow to ask him about.

  • Jeanne

    Things like this should never have happened! Those responsible should be prosecuted, fined and be made to pay to properly clean the site. Now! Not months from now. If Menefie is responsible, he needs to be drummed out of office. No one can fault the people affected by these poisons for sueing all those responsible.

  • Debra

    I can’t believe that they are not cleaning this up TODAY! I smell lawsuits, fines & getting booted out of office all across the board.

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