Black residents campaign for environmental justice in their backyard

Source: Douglas Sacha / Getty

DDiscrimination in municipal water and sewer services is not new. But with increased attention to environmental justice and equity, communities that have struggled for a long time are starting to receive the attention they need..

Residents of Centerville, Illinois, have fought for decades to solve problems with human wastewater flowing over their properties. NBC News reported that raw sewage flooded backyards, basements and crawl spaces with little to no relief from local government.

The community group, Centerville Citizens for Change, led the way, with more than two dozen residents suing the Commonfields of the Cahokia Public Water District and the town of Cahokia Heights.. Citing violations of the Clean Water Act, the lawsuit alleges that the city and the utility poorly maintained and did not repair sanitary sewer and stormwater drainage systems.

“The horrific sanitary conditions that the residents of Centerville face day in and day out are another example of the municipal indifference that low-income black communities face in America,” said Nicole Nelson, executive director of Equity Legal Services. .. “The negligence of Commonfields and Cahokia Heights in providing basic sewage and storm water services has exposed these residents to unacceptable health and safety risks.. “

Residents say enough is enough. In a statement released in July by Earth Justice, residents documented the long battle against chronic flooding and sewage filling people’s backyards. Like many older black communities, many residents do not have the money for repairs.

Home ownership is supposed be the American dream, but failures of public services and public health can make it a nightmare. It seems that the residents’ perseverance may finally pay off.

Drinking water and proper disposal of sewage and human waste are accepted as a matter of course in many areas.

Even where infrastructure is lacking, billing services are still waiting for payment.

“Being a citizen of any region, I don’t care if it’s here or elsewhere in the United States of America – the townships, the cities, the powers in charge, they have to do what they have to do to make sure their citizens have everything they need to live comfortably, ”Centerville Citizens for Change member Yvette Lyles told St. Louis public radio.

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