Public Infrastructure Disparities and the Microbiological and Chemical Safety of Drinking and Surface Water Supplies in a Community Bordering a Landfill


A community-driven research partnership identified problems with basic amenities in an African-American community adjacent to a landfill.

The Issue:
Residents of the historically African-American Rogers-Eubanks community in North Carolina have been concerned about the safety of private wells and septic systems due to the proximity of a regional landfill since 1972. Residents lack the resources to research the levels and sources of contamination.

Key Findings

  • Many households (52%) had a private well. Common signs of well failure included water cloudiness, bad taste or smell, and chlorine disinfection.

  • Most households (78%) had a private septic system. Common signs of septic system failure included frequent septic tank pumping, discharge into the yard or home, and malodor.

  • Survey respondents expressed various levels of willingness to connect to public water and sewer for free, citing other home repairs as more pressing if money were made available.

Infrastructure disparities exist for residents of color living in underserved communities, including lack of access to safe public water and sewers.

About the Study:
Residents formed a study partnership with scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and student members of Engineers Without Borders.

See Also:
For background information on this community-based research effort to improve environmental health conditions in Rogers-Eubanks, see the accompanying Guest Commentary.