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DOJ launches probe into ‘racist’ sewage in rural Alabama

“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,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said on Tuesday, announcing the investigation.

The Civil Rights Division will look into the Alabama Department of Public Health and the county health department to see if they failed to safely dispose of raw sewage in the area. The rural area between Montgomery and Selma is overwhelmingly poor and African-American.

The investigation will look at “policies and practices” that may have caused black residents “to have diminished access to adequate sanitation systems and to disproportionately and unjustifiably bear the risk of adverse health effects associated with inadequate wastewater treatment, such as hookworm infections,” the DOJ said.

As Reuters reports, the unincorporated rural area is not connected to municipal sewer systems and relies on private septic tanks.

In his first week in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order establishing “environmental justice” offices at the DOJ and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to “address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities.”

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