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Federal prosecutors launch investigation into Black Belt county’s sewage problem

Environmental Justice-Alabama
Julie Bennett/AP
FR170675 AP
Heavy rains flood the front yard of Lowndes County resident Charlie Mae Holcombe, Feb. 21, 2019, in Hayneville, Ala. Holcombe keeps her grandchildren out of the front yard because she fears contamination from the failing wastewater sanitation system at her home. The Justice Department on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, announced an environmental justice investigation into the county's longstanding wastewater sanitation problems, which have left some residents with sewage in their yards. (AP Photo/Julie Bennett, file)

The U.S. Department of Justice announced an environmental justice probe in Lowndes County today.

The county, where 26% of people live in poverty and over 70% of residents are Black, has been experiencing wastewater issues so severe that residents have sewage in their yards. The DOJ’s civil rights division is investigating the mismanagement of the wastewater to determine if there is any racial bias.

Federal prosecutors are concerned that the county’s residents have been heavily exposed to potential hookworm infections and other illnesses caused by exposure to wastewater. Many of the homes in the area still utilize a “straight pipe” system, which is where wastewater is directly released from a home into a water supply or the ground via pipes.

Lacey Alexander is a digital intern for Alabama Public Radio.
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