ACRE-Duke Partnership to Improve Sanitation Access in Lowndes County, Alabama (2018-2019)

On the road from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama, Lowndes County is home to about 10,000 residents. Three-quarters of the population is black, and a third live in poverty. Up to 90% of homes in Lowndes County have no septic system or an inadequate one, resulting in poor health outcomes. A third of residents who participated in a study by Baylor University tested positive for hookworm.

Building on a partnership between Duke and the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE) begun in 2014, this project team investigated policy solutions, funding mechanisms and septic system design. Team members began by visiting Lowndes County to learn from Flowers, meet community members and hear from impacted families.

The team analyzed survey data from more than 300 households and prepared a cost analysis of various sanitation solutions. Broadening their focus, they developed maps of sanitation access in Alabama, North Carolina and West Virginia, and created a digital timeline of environmental justice events and leaders across the U.S.

Team members also took part in a climate justice training on campus, attended the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Atlanta, traveled to Washington to hear Flowers’ testimony at a congressional hearing and learned more about environmental justice during a trip to “Cancer Alley” in Louisiana.

Several graduate students on the team also received a Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grant to evaluate strategies to address the wastewater management problem from engineering, policy, economic, scientific and human angles.

Timing

Fall 2018 – Summer 2019  

Team Outputs

Environmental Justice Timeline

Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grant for Duke University Environmental Justice Network (Brandon Hunter, Katy Hansen, Walker Grimshaw, et al.)

ACRE-Duke Partnership to Improve Sanitation Access in Lowndes County, AL (poster by Caroline Heitmann, Meghana Kuppa, Tenzin Yangkey, Marina Smalling, Gino Nuzzolillo, Madelyn Winchester, Ana Ramirez, Elizabeth Allen, McKenzie Cook, Laura Landes, Kelsey Rowland, Onuoha Odim, presented at Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 17, 2019)

Solution-centered Collaborative Research in Rural Alabama. 2018. Erika Weinthal, Elizabeth A. Albright, Catherine Coleman Flowers, Emily Stewart. Items: Insights from the Social Sciences.

Environmental Justice and Groundwater Impacts of Hog Farms in Eastern North Carolina (honors thesis by Elizabeth Griffin, Civil & Environmental Engineering)

On-site Wastewater Treatment in Lowndes County, Alabama: A Failure in Engineering and Politics (honors thesis by Hailey Prevett, Civil & Environmental Engineering)

Community-level Cost Comparisons of Wastewater Treatment Systems in Lowndes County, AL (honors thesis by Marina Smalling, Civil & Environmental Engineering)

Environmental Justice Resources (Elizabeth Allen, McKenzie Cook, Gino Nuzzolillo, Ana Ramirez, Madelyn Winchester)

Interviews with leading experts in the field of environmental justice: Sharmila Murthy, Robert Bullard, Cherri Foytlin, Ryan Emanuel

Duke-ACRE partnership website

Reflections

Kelsey Rowland

Disconnected and Disenfranchised: How the Federal Government Can Help Rural Communities Manage Their Waste

No More Forgetting: Learning from a Global Human Rights Perspective on Sanitation Issues Nationwide

Flushed, Forgotten and Unincorporated Communities: Taking a Human Rights Perspective on Sanitation Issues

Updates from Environmental Justice Bass Connections Teams

Duke Goes to Washington, D.C. to Testify to U.S. Congress on Water and Wastewater Infrastructure

Students Attend the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training

Students Participate in the Climate Justice Training

Environmental Justice in Lowndes County, AL

A Just Environment: Industry, Environmental Policies and the Community

2018 NC Environmental Justice Summit

Videos

What Is Environmental Justice?

Using Stories to Change the World | Climate Justice Workshop at Duke

This Team in the News

Research Partnership Takes Aim at Environmental Injustice in the Rural South

Learning about Environmental Disasters and Injustices in Louisiana

How Environmental Justice is Shaping a New Civil Rights Movement in the South

Wastewater Treatment Is a Problem in the Rural South. Who Is Working to Fix It?

ACRE

Team Leaders

  • Elizabeth Albright, Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Emily Stewart, Franklin Humanities Institute-Duke Human Rights Center
  • Erika Weinthal, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy

/graduate Team Members

  • Walker Grimshaw, Master of Environmental Management, Water Resources Management
  • Kathleen Hansen, Environmental Policy-PHD
  • Brandon Hunter, Civil & Environmental Engg-PHD
  • Ryan Juskus, Religion-PHD
  • Mrudula Kuppa, Civil & Environmental Engg-MS
  • Laura Landes, Master of Environmental Management, Environmental Economics/Policy
  • Emma Lietz Bilecky, Theological Studies-MTS, Master of Environmental Management, Environmental Economics/Policy
  • Carly Osborne, Master of Environmental Management, Water Resources Management
  • Katherine Pringle, Economics-AM, Biomedical Engineering-MS
  • Kelsey Rowland, Master of Environmental Management, Water Resources Management, Community Based Environmental
  • Yan Sun, Master of Environmental Management

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Elizabeth Allen, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB)
  • McKenzie Cook, Int Comparative Studies (AB)
  • Elizabeth Griffin, Environmental Engineering(BSE)
  • Caroline Heitmann, Civil Engineering (BSE)
  • Eugene Nuzzolillo, History (AB)
  • Onuoha Odim, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Hailey Prevett, Environmental Engineering(BSE), Earth & Ocean Sciences (AB2)
  • Ana Ramirez, Religion (AB), Environmental Sci/Policy (AB2)
  • Marina Smalling, Civil Engineering (BSE)
  • Madelyn Winchester, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Tenzin Yangkey, Environmental Engineering(BSE)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Megan Mullin, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • David Schaad, Pratt School of Engineering-Civil & Environmental Engineering

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Catherine Coleman Flowers, Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE)