Quantcast

Residents Seek Environmental Justice in GA By Suing City for Decades of Sewage Dumping

Earthjustice

A group of African-American citizens filed suit today against their city government in Rochelle, GA, for discharging the city’s raw sewage onto their properties.

The City of Rochelle failed to report and monitor spills at multiple residences and businesses. Locations marked with red pins.

White residents of Rochelle live on the south side of the city’s railroad track. African-Americans live on the other side. The city has repaired and updated its sewage pipes on the south side of the tracks but has let critically needed repairs lag on the north side. As a result, untreated sewage backs up and overflows into the streets and the yards of residents on the north side of the tracks.

The Clean Water Act suit, filed in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Georgia, seeks to stop the un-permitted discharges of raw sewage from manholes, broken pipes and a ditch. The suit would also prevent the city from bypassing its sewer system and endangering public health by forcing citizens to release sewage into their yards in order to keep it out of their homes. These discharges and bypasses are violations of the Clean Water Act.

Raw sewage pools in plaintiff Rufus Howard's backyard. Photo courtesy of Earthjustice

The city’s sewage conveyance pipes date back to the 1940’s. Sewage backs up in underground pipes during heavy rains, making it flow up into African-Americans’ houses through bathtub and shower drains. To keep the sewage out of their houses during heavy rains, residents remove plugs from sewage pipes or craft other strategies on their own to make the sewage pour into their yards instead of their houses.

The residents have to shovel and bury fecal matter, toilet paper and other noxious debris left in their yards after sewage overflows, which have taken place three or four times a year for decades. Sewage also overflows from manholes and broken pipes into a ditch along the north side of Rochelle and out into Mill Creek, which eventually flows to the Suwannee River.

“Sewage overflows my pipes and flows under my house. It’s time somebody did something about it. They [the white community] live comfortably and I want to live comfortably, too,” said Rufus Howard, one of eight Rochelle residents who are represented by Earthjustice, whose Florida office is handling the litigation.

Nine residents of Rochelle, GA are suing their city government for discharging the city's raw sewage onto their properties.

James Woods, a deacon at Piney Grove Baptist Church said, “We had an Easter program at the church and found raw sewage all over the floors.”

“If we hear a bubbling sound, that means it’s backing up with raw sewage," explained Sittie Butts. "We can’t wash dishes. It goes all over the yard. It smells real bad. We try to keep the kids away.”

“It is embarrassing that anyone in the United States should have to shovel sewage and toilet paper out of their front yard,” said Earthjustice attorney Alisa Coe, who is representing the citizens in this Clean Water Act case. “The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 to stop this kind of thing. If the city can fix it on the south side of the tracks, they can fix it on the north side too.”

The sewage from manholes and broken pipes flows into the streets and to the ditch along the north side of town, which discharges to Mill Creek. This is a clear violation of the Clean Water Act and the city’s permit. Once a favored fishing stream used by people in the neighborhood, Mill Creek is now so foul it is no longer used at all.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLEAN WATER ACT page for more related news on this topic.

——–

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Winfield, Missouri this month. Jonathan Rehg / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Reed Hoffmann / Getty Images

Violent tornadoes tore through Missouri Wednesday night, killing three and causing "extensive damage" to the state's capital of Jefferson City, The New York Times reported.

"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."

Read More Show Less