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In the wealthiest country on planet earth, there are places where people are sick and dying, because they live with raw sewage in their back and front yard.

NBC reporter Yamiche Alcindor has traveled to Lowndes County, Alabama and talked to residents that live in these conditions. Many would think that these kinds of conditions would not exist in America, but they are real.

County officials responsible for part of the sewer system couldn’t be reached for comment. Sherry Bradley, the director of the Bureau of Environmental Services of the state Public Health Department, showed up at a Justice Department hearing to defend the agency.

"She is adamant that the Justice Department won’t find any wrongdoing. She argues that when it comes to installing sewer lines from a home to the county’s system, it’s on the homeowner,” Alcindor writes.    

In Lowndes Countywhere 40% of the community are poor and struggle every day to afford food to eat, it's absurd to expect people to find pay  money to fix their sewage problems.

The majority of people in this rural community are Black, and they've had to deal with the failing waste system for decades. Sewage water has backed up into homes and playgrounds.

A disgrace

It is obvious that a public health crisis exists, but Bradley, the director of the Bureau of Environmental Services in the state and a Black woman, is suggesting that outhouses could be a solutions to some of the communities’ problems.

This is a textbook case in systemic racism, and it is taking the Black community back 100 years.

Robert D. Bullard, a native of Alabama, a professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University and a man some call the “father of environmental justice,” says this about the environmental crisis in Alabama. 

“Race has been the most significant determinant of who gets infrastructure and who gets left behind. It’s like racism has kept this county underdeveloped. And it’s kept them underdeveloped, which has spillover effects in terms of life expectancy.”

This sewage crisis in Alabama is a public health crisis, which is also a racist and discrimination crisis.

This is destroying the quality of life in the community, and many of the residents are sick.

Catherine Coleman Flowers, an environmental activist and  MacArthur “genius grant” recipient who grew up in Lowndes County, has been working on the waste problem in the county for years.

When America spends $13.6 billion in Ukraine, and continues to spend more money, the question must be asked, “What happens to the people sick and dying in America?"

These conditions are not just happening in rural parts of the stateTravel to poor sections of any state, and there is an environmental public health crisis. It is easy to look away, but people are sick and dying.

Public health crisis

Racism is a public health crisis, and April is Minority Health Month. When a Black woman offers outhouses as a way of improving a raw sewage problem, which has existed for years, there are fundamental problems in the leadership.

Instead of spending millions to correct a problem, they tell the community it is their responsibility to fix.

It is so easy to not care in American, because that is done every day. When small environmental problems are not corrected, they continue to grow until they are a crisis, and people begin to die.

Poor people deserve to live a quality life; we just need our leaders to tell the truth and care.

Roger Caldwell, a community activist, author, journalist, radio host and CEO of On Point Media Group, lives in Orlando. Contact him at

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