I had hoped to take a break from walk stories for awhile, but events often change the firmest of plans. So Elliott and I were walking this morning when we heard a train coming from the north. That was odd. Most days we only cross paths with the Amtrak coming from the south. We could tell it was a big train. You start to know when the big ones are coming because the engines roar louder and the ground shakes further out in front of the big freighter's path.
As always, we stopped our walk and waved at the engineer. It was dark so I don't know if he saw us; I'm certain we didn't see him. As the flat, open cars rolled by with the big box containers stacked high on each one, the smell revealed the freight. It was the infamous trash train.
I had heard tales of the trash train. I had seen it a couple of times before from a distance. But today Elliott and I ventured close enough for parts of the freight to find refuge in our noses for the remainder of our walk. For me it was more like the rest of the day. It was one of those smells so rotten that even after the odor dies, the memory of it lives on for hours haunting like a ghost.
Once my mind was relieved of its duty of restraining my urge to vomit, I had to wonder where on earth that trash was coming from, in train loads nonetheless, and where was its final destination? There is only one place to find such answers - the internet.
The trash Elliott and I were so blessed to smell this morning was likely the table scraps of a fine New York City dinner. Since 1999, an average of 30 boxcar loads of garbage has rolled south from NYC to a landfill in Waverly, Virginia. 55,000 tons of trash roll through Ashland each month. In fact, in the United States only Pennsylvania imports more solid waste than Virginia each year. Virginia welcomes over 5.5 million tons of our neighbors' trash annually, a couple million tons short of Pennsylvania's hospitality. The good news, Virginia has a 20 year agreement with New York, so in time the smell may become less haunting.
Now there is a walk that added a whole new meaning to environmental education.