Alabama Black Belt Case Tests Whether Sanitation Is a Civil Right

"The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice recently announced that Alabama had agreed to remediate a sewage crisis in majority-Black Lowndes County."

"The new front in America’s civil rights struggle is forming on familiar battlegrounds in Alabama’s Black Belt, and this time the legal fight is not over the right to vote, to attend desegregated classrooms or to survive in overcrowded prisons.

This time, the federal government has raised a difficult question and threatened Alabama with costly repairs over a sweeping societal problem: Does everyone have the right to basic sanitation in their homes?

The federal government now seems to be answering yes to that question, using a civil rights investigation to press Alabama to solve long-standing sewage infrastructure problems in remote and lightly populated areas.

“This is the first time the federal government has done this, which is significant,” said Melanie Fontes Rainer, director of the Office of Human Rights for the Department of Health and Human Services. “And this is not the last."

Dennis Pillion reports for the Birmingham News July 10, 2023.

Source: Birmingham News, 07/11/2023