Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno

U.S. Justice Dept launches environmental probe into Alabama wastewater disposal

WASHINGTON, Nov 9 (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Division on Tuesday launched an environmental justice investigation into whether or not Alabama’s wastewater disposal practices discriminate towards sure Black residents and put their well being at larger threat.

The inquiry, which shall be led by the Justice Division’s Civil Rights Division, will give attention to the Alabama Division of Public Well being (ADPH) and the Lowndes County Well being Division.

It marks the primary time the Justice Division has ever in historical past launched a Title VI environmental justice investigation into one of many division’s grant recipients.

Beneath U.S. civil rights legislation, native governments and different entities that obtain federal grants are prohibited from discriminating on the idea of race, shade or nationwide origin.

“Sanitation is a basic human need, and no one in the United States should be exposed to risk of illness and other serious harm because of inadequate access to safe and effective sewage management,” Kristen Clarke, Assistant Lawyer Common within the Justice Division’s Civil Rights Division, stated.

A few of the opposed well being results on Black residents uncovered to uncooked sewage in Lowndes County have included hookworm infections, she instructed a media briefing.

Residents usually are not linked to municipal sewer methods as a result of they stay in unincorporated rural areas and, as such, depend on personal septic tanks in permeable clay soil.

Clarke stated the Justice Division acquired allegations on behalf of county residents alleging the Lowndes and state well being departments had been conscious of the well being dangers from however had didn’t do what was vital to soundly eliminate uncooked sewage.“State and native well being officers are obligated, underneath federal civil rights legal guidelines, to guard the well being and security of all their residents,” she stated.

In an electronic mail to Reuters, the Alabama well being division stated it was reviewing the knowledge offered by the Justice Division and couldn’t remark whereas the inquiry was ongoing, including: “ADPH is committed to cooperating with the investigating agencies to have this matter resolved as quickly as possible.”

Requested to remark, the Lowndes County well being division directed Reuters to the state well being division.

Based on Clarke, Lowndes County, located between Selma and Montgomery, is a predominantly Black and low-income space with a mean median earnings of simply $30,000.

(This story refiles to make paragraph 3 learn ‘Title VI’ not ‘Title IV’.)

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; extra reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; modifying by Mark Heinrich

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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