Smoke from new land development raises concerns

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - New property is being developed near the Riverside Landing community in northeast Huntsville and residents are concerned about the smoke occurring from developers clearing the land.

Video from residents shows smoke hurling towards peoples homes. Brenda Newell Lives in Riverside Landing and says she felt like a prisoner in her own home, not wanting to walk out into the smoke.

"We'd walk out and there would be ash and soot an inch thick on our automobiles also on our home and all over the driveway," says Belinda Newell.

Newell's home is right beside the land being cleared for development.

"It became a really big problem, as you can see we are really close to where they are mowing down and burning everything," says Newell.

Several residents in Riverside Landing say they are concerned about their health due to the smoke.

"I do have a 12-year-old child who has been battling leukemia for the past three years and his health could be severely compromised," says Newell.

WHNT News 19 contacted the Alabama Department of Environmental Management(ADEM). The head of ADEM's Air Pollution Division, Ron Gore, explained that the developer was legally clearing the land. Gore says it is legal to open burn untreated vegetation as long as the burn is 500 ft from the nearest occupied dwelling.

"I didn't understand that law. Because number one, they have torn down massive amounts. They have burned massive amounts. You would think the greater the amount, the greater the distance away," says Newell.

ADEM says they sent an inspector to this burn site and it was just barely over 500 yards and declared legal. Newell believes the law should be changed.

"I think it should be based on the amounts being burned that should determine the distance away. If they can't meet that distance, they should be required to haul it off and burn it in a safe location," says Newell.

Newell also wants it mandated that residents near open burning be notified by mail.

WHNT NEWS 19 reached out to the developer who was clearing this land. We are still waiting to hear back from them for comment.

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