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The project managers now hope that their non-profit partnership can serve as a model for other jurisdictions to update their systems.
Why This Matters: As much as 20% of Americans rely on septic systems to treat their wastewater, the nation’s septic infrastructure is failing, causing public health and environmental crises. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 40% of septic tanks do not function properly. Failing septic tanks have led to hookworm outbreaks, algal blooms, and groundwater contamination. Many of these crises primarily impact Black and Indigenous communities across the U.S., many of which cannot afford to repair or replace old, leaky systems.
As storms and flooding increase due to climate change, coastal communities that rely on septic tanks will be especially vulnerable to system failure. While the nation eagerly awaits a federal infrastructure bill, partnerships between businesses, government, and communities like the LCUWP can be just what the doctor ordered.
Make Haste, Not Waste: The LCUWP is a non-profit partnership between locals, businesses, the state Department of Environmental Services, and the federal government. Through the program, residents can apply for a new septic system, contribute a down payment, and pay $20 per month for maintenance costs. The program covers the rest of the charges, which can be higher than $30,000. “It already has changed my life,” said Lowndes resident Perman Hardy. “The plumbing system has changed my life. The septic system has changed my life.”
The program hasn’t been without its challenges, though. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rescinded a $2 million grant from the program. After a political dispute, Hardy was removed from the county’s sewer board, effectively voiding documents she signed to secure the funding. “I think it’s unfortunate that it happened, and I hate to see it not be successful,” said Former county commissioner Carnell McAlpine. “Because that is a serious issue in this county with the sewage, and I hope something can be worked out.” Hardy has pledged to continue fighting, and fundraising for the program, and officials have said they intend to continue pursuing the project.
Meanwhile, the bipartisan federal infrastructure bill has opened for debate in the Senate and, if passed, would be the nation’s most significant investment in clean drinking water and wastewater infrastructure to date. The plan would also allow funds from the American Rescue Plan to replace and repair wastewater systems. Even so, many BIPOC residents are reluctant to trust the government after decades of disappointments in places like Flint, Chicago, and now, Lowndes County. Local advocates like Hardy hope that they can bridge the gap. “I built that trust growing up all my life here,” she says to other counties, “You can do the same thing.”
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor In another significant blow to the Pebble Mine project in Alaska, the EPA has asked a federal court to allow Clean Water Act protections for parts of Bristol Bay, a body of water that stands to be decimated if the project continues. Environmental advocates and Alaska Native tribes hope […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer California’s record-breaking drought is not just a result of climate change — it’s also making climate change worse. According to a new study, population growth and energy-sapping water projects have driven up emissions and slowed down decarbonization campaigns. As it gets more and more difficult for Californians to rely […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor A federal judge has thrown out a Trump administration environmental rollback that scaled back federal protections for the nation’s streams, marshes, and wetlands. Despite support from farm and business groups, the federal judge ruled that the rollback could lead to “serious environmental harm.” Environmental groups are celebrating the decision, which will reinstate protections for […]
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