‘Beautiful’ state faces lawsuit over unsanitary conditions


Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 10/5/2018, 10:54 a.m.
When you drive into Alabama, there is a big sign that says...

One reason these conditions exist is that residents are not permitted to install conventional septic systems, which cost between $2,000 and $3,000 to install. The systems are incompatible with the type of soil this region of Alabama is known for. Instead, residents must install special systems that meet state standards and can cost anywhere between $6,000 and $30,000 between — creating an often-insurmountable financial burden for low-income families. In Alabama, it is a criminal misdemeanor to “build, maintain, or use” an unsanitary system. In the past, the state has issued arrest warrants for residents who did not receive permits for their septic tanks. (Violating this law is punishable by a $500 fine or jail time).

According to the lawsuit, from 1999 to 2002, the state issued warrants to at least 10 Black Lowndes County residents for violating this law. The complaint wants both the state and the county to retract their public statement saying there is no hookworm in Lowndes County. They also want to institute an education program for residents about the risks of infection and treatment options should infections strike. The Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise is calling for an independent investigation into deficient wastewater systems. Ultimately, Flowers hopes this lawsuit will make a difference “in the lives of African Americans who deserve the same rights to water and decent health as everyone else.”