Another reason our Constitution stinks: The smell from up north
From the Anniston Star
In our opinion
10-09-2007

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Of the many complaints lodged against our current constitutional arrangement, one of the most frequent is the difficulty that local governments face when they want to regulate things in their own back yards.

(Another criticism is the way special interests use that constitutional arrangement to keep local governments, or state government for that matter, from regulating what the special interests don't want regulated.)

Among the many things local governments struggle with is regulating nuisances such as junk yards, dumps, mean dogs that are on the loose, and treated human waste that's being used as fertilizer.

That's right.

While no one was looking — at least no one who would or could do anything about it — a Texas company worked out a deal with New York to take sludge from waste treatment plants up there, ship it to Alabama, treat it again, and then give it to farmers to use as fertilizer. They are doing this up in Limestone County.

Let's not blame the farmers. It is good fertilizer and it's free. Plus, the Environmental Protection Agency says it is not a health hazard.

But it stinks.

Not just that good, old-fashioned farm stink that is more nostalgic than nasty, but a stench that, according to someone living in the neighborhood, "smells 10 times worse than a pig barn."

The farmer is in a bind. For years, farms didn't have neighbors. Farms were way out in the country. But in recent years neighborhoods have encroached on farmland, so now the farmer must be concerned about what the folks next door think about farm smells. On the other hand, the folks next door need to be aware that farming has certain scents associated with it.

Human waste, however, should not be one of them. But what can be done?

Not much, unless the Legislature passes strict environmental standards covering this sort of thing or the Constitution is changed to give local government the power to deal with what is clearly a local matter.

Neither is likely to happen unless a lot of folks raise a big stink — bigger than what is already being smelled.

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