BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – As the smell from the Bristol, Virginia landfill rolled in once again on neighborhoods on both sides of the state line, a small church nestled in the countryside escaped the smell. Now that church’s pastor wants to turn his building into an overnight refuge.
The nasty stench from the Bristol, Virginia Landfill has led to many sleepless nights for people on both sides of the state line. People report shortness of breath, increased heart rates and even bloody noses during the night.
But soon, people may have an escape on the nights when the stench is unbearable.
Tim Crusenberry is the pastor at Beulah Land Baptist Church. He has plans to turn his church into an overnight shelter for victims of the landfill odors.
“We know people are suffering, and we just simply want to try to help,” Crusenberry said. “We just trying to create a place where they can come and get away from it for a while.”
He said the church can hold up to 30 people comfortably on a given night.
When it is ready, the shelter will have three rooms for families with dividing doors. He plans to remove tables in a classroom to make a men’s sleeping area and move pews in the sanctuary to make space for women and children.
He said the church would be open to admissions from 5 p.m. throughout the night so people who can no longer bear the stench can find a place to get stink-free sleep.
Joel Kellogg, a co-founder of the landfill relief advocate group HOPE for Bristol, said the smell is at its worst during the evening and early morning hours, and greatly affects his and many others’ ability to sleep.
“When it comes in, it feels like the air is a wall. It’s something that you can touch,” Kellogg said. “It is just so thick and so putrid and so acrid.”
Crusenberry said the main hurdle to opening the shelter is supplies. He said he needs the cots and blankets to give people a comfortable place to sleep.
He said the shelter could open as soon as the church has the cots and blankets it needs.
Bristol residents have long called on local governments to provide shelter for the nights when the smell bombards their homes.
“There were calls for people that wanted to get away or were evacuated in their cars in the middle of the night probably since June this year,” Kellogg said.
But why doesn’t the smell hit the Beulah Land Baptist Church? After all, the church is less than three miles away from the landfill.
Crusenberry said that is because of its location in a valley. He said the geography pushes the landfill air away from the countryside.
“I’ve lived in this area for 30 years and the general wind direction is toward town, not away down this valley, so that helps,” Crusenberry said.
Crusenberry thinks he can provide a forum for people to talk about the ways the landfill has negatively affected their lives.
“Sharing who you are and what you’re suffering through. A lot of times just getting that off your chest is very therapeutic and helpful,” Crusenberry said.
He added that the shelter will have a children’s playroom, bathrooms and a kitchen.