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National Community Decentralized Wastewater Treatment Demonstration Project

While a part of the Alabama Rural Initiative, ACRE, was appropriated a Congressional earmark sponsored by United States Senator Richard Shelby, and supported by the entire Alabama delegation. This appropriation will be disbursed as a grant administered by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to demonstrate the use of affordable alternative or new technologies in an effort to address the inadequate disposal of raw sewage in Lowndes County, Alabama.

Partnering with various local and national entities, the project will educate regulators; demonstrate certain unique features; advance state-of-the art decentralized wastewater management practices; change the community’s approach to traditional wastewater options; and provide tools and documentation that can be replicated.

This issue garnered national attention in newspapers around the country when poor residents in Lowndes County were arrested when they could not afford the cost of septic systems after being cited by health officials. Citations were issued when complaints of raw sewage running on top of the ground was received by officials of the local health department. The expense of the current technology is far beyond the reach of many local citizens because prairie soils within the region dictate a costly remedy. According to the 2000 census, more than thirty one percent (31%) of the population live below the poverty level.

The problem of improper disposal of raw human waste exists throughout the state of Alabama as well as in many parts of the United States. It is an environmental issue with potentially deadly consequences for poor communities.  This project will identify and model the use of affordable technology at the sites of the homes of families cited by the Health Department. It will also demonstrate the use of a management entity to maintain the systems. One of thirteen EPA National Demonstration Projects in the United States, this program will ultimately aid economic growth in one of the poorest regions of Alabama. More importantly, this project will provide a model to help protect the water quality and health of this community, and others throughout Alabama and the nation.