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

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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 pubic water and sewer for free, citing other home repairs as more pressing if money were made available.

Conclusions:
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.

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