Photo Credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo
The Biden administration started another initiative that would hopefully give solution to the wastewater issues in poor, rural communities. The condition has caused health problems to these communities.
Launched under the supervision of the US Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency, the Wastewater Access Gap Community Initiative by the Closing America, will be announced by several authorities including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Michael Reagan, EPA Administrator, and Mitch Landrieu, the White House Infrastructure Coordinator in Lowndes County, Alabama.
The rural community, home to a majority of Black American citizens have long suffered from the dismal wastewater conditions and inefficient sewage disposal. The area is situated between Selma and Montgomery. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the wastewater systems of the community are vital in the prevention of disease, bacteria, parasites, and virus.
“President Biden has been clear — we cannot leave any community behind as we rebuild America’s infrastructure with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said Landrieu.
“This includes rural and Tribal communities who for too long have felt forgotten,” he added.
Vilsack added that “access to modern, reliable wastewater infrastructure is a necessity,” considering the presence of several “people who have been going without the basics.”
According to USDA, the plan will aid “communities access financing and technical assistance to improve wastewater infrastructure to ‘close the gap’ with wealthier communities.”
A room for community-government collaboration
The project will also open an avenue for authorities to reach out to the communities and teach the proper skills needed to improve and maintain the health of their wastewater systems. Authorities added that the target communities and tribes will be given wastewater solution plans and funding.
The 11 target communities will work closely with the agencies “to leverage technical and financial expertise to make progress” in improving the wastewater conditions in their respective areas.
Target areas include:
- Greene County, Alabama;
- Harlan County, Kentucky;
- Halifax and Duplin counties in North Carolina;
- Raleigh and McDowell counties in West Virginia;
- San Carlos Apache Tribe in Arizona;
- Doña Ana County and Santo Domino Pueblo in New Mexico; and
- Bolivar County in Mississippi.
Called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, it will disburse $55 billion to improve water infrastructures of the communities. Among the priority goal is to replace service lines so the communities would have access to clean drinking water, as well as stormwater and wastewater.
Under the law, $11bn will also be appropriated as loans and grants under the Clear Water State Revolving Fund so communities may access these to fix the specific problems of their water system.
In the Lowndes County, many residents face mounting issues regarding their waste management and disposal. The community cannot afford a sophisticated sewer system and as such, rely on private septic tanks.
Luckily, organizations such as the Black Belt Unincorporated Wastewater Program helps assist families with low income address their disposal system. The group’s site reported that through the USDA grant, they are able to help families within the community in the installation of septic systems.
Other households who were not granted with the assistance find other alternatives such as directly piping the line from the toilet to the ground.
Sherry Bradley of the Bureau of Environmental Services of the Alabama Department of Public Health admitted that resources are scarce for addressing the problems, and the mitigations that the communities have come up with is “just fixing a problem temporarily.”
“It must be the right person to install these systems that know what they’re doing, that’s one reason I decided to step out of my regulatory role and help install onsite systems,” Bradly said.
“I’ve seen a lot of onsite failures because someone’s brother or neighbor installed a system. Constant training of the homeowner is also needed,” she added.