My Alabama Waste Disposal Adventure Part 6: "Journey to the Landfill"

Kristen Aubut

Last week’s conclusion to “Cleaning Out the Shed”:

“They told us we could bring all our poisons out to the Handle With Care household hazardous waste facility run by the Huntsville Solid Waste Disposal Authority… So, we packed all the bottles, boxes and bags into the back of the Subaru, and with our heads hanging out the windows for fresh air, we drove our hazardous load out to the landfill.”

In addition to the DDT, the bottle labeled Kills Everything and all the other pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, we loaded the Subaru with several boxes of nonhazardous items that could go nowhere but the landfill. Goodwill did not want them, the city’s recycling program would not take them, none of us needed them and my grandmother had already instructed us to bring back to Raleigh as little as possible. One example of these landfill-bound items was the 60-year-old walker my dad used as a baby. The wooden parts were rotten and the metal parts were rusted through. It was of no use to anyone, so to the landfill it went.

My sister Ellen and I agreed to make the garbage run just as long as my sister Jill, my dad and my brother-in-law Shane promised to keep packing while we were gone. If they kept their promise, I’ll never know. From the landfill’s website, I jotted down the directions. “Great!” I thought. “Leeman Ferry Road is only 15 minutes from here. This should be a quick trip.”

In the heavily-laden Subaru, we turned left out of the neighborhood and made our way down Memorial Parkway. After about 10 minutes, with my chicken-scratch handwritten directions as a guide, Ellen turned right off Memorial Parkway onto Airport Boulevard. After a few minutes, we crested a huge hill and realized we were headed down into Jones Valley. I could not imagine the landfill being located in this beautiful valley, home to a few residential and business areas and hundreds of acres of the valley’s original farmland. It was clear we were headed in the wrong direction.

“Maybe I wrote the directions down incorrectly,” I confessed. “Perhaps we were supposed to turn left onto Airport Boulevard instead of right. Maybe we should turn around.”

Just before we decided to turn around to head back out of the valley, a tractor trailer passed us going in the opposite direction. On the front of the tractor trailer was a yellow Wide Load sign, and on the bed of the tractor trailer was a house. Yes, a house. Apparently, someone wanted a new neighborhood but did not want a new house. We laughed at this funny sight as we found a good place to turn around.

A few minutes later, we were headed back out of the valley. As we crested the same huge hill, we slammed on our brakes as we came face-to-face with a house. We had caught up to the Wide Load house-hauling tractor trailer. We were stuck behind the house and its police escort that were traveling at perhaps 20 miles per hour. The misery of this slow pace was magnified by the pesticide fumes we were inhaling on this hot and humid Alabama summer day. We were going so slow no air was moving, and we were not even sure we were headed in the right direction. We crept along Airport Boulevard, back over Memorial Parkway; then finally, 20 minutes later, the house turned onto a different road. Then, to our great relief, we spotted the sign for Leeman Ferry Road.

Check back next week when I tell the story of the surprise we discover at the landfill.

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