Can you smell that?
In the late 1950s, Birmingham, Ala., held a quaint tea party just above 30 feet of garbage at the city’s sanitary landfill. The unusual event was organized after nearby residents filed an injunction against the city to close the site, complaining of odors, according to the January 1959 issue of The American City. Twenty-five people were invited to the one-of-a-kind social gathering, an effort by then-Commissioner J.T. Waggoner from the Department of Public Improvements to disprove the allegations. Local garden club members assisted the commissioner by serving tea and taking part in the festivities, which were broadcast on local television news channels. Although the city ordered the landfill to remain open, the site was required to remove odors emanating from drainage. Following the tea party, the department no longer received complaints.
Nearly 50 years later, Birmingham now hosts two landfills — New Georgia and Eastern Area — which are under the jurisdiction of the Solid Waste Division of the Department of Public Works. Residential areas are just 250 feet from the 360-acre Eastern Area landfill, but the division receives few odor complaints from neighbors. The city no longer coordinates large community outreach efforts — organized tea parties included — but it offers landfill tours to residents and school children. Residents’ issues, concerns and complaints are addressed individually, often through the city’s Citizen Service Request 311 service. To address odor issues, the city uses daily covers, which also provide structural support and fire protection for the landfill.