Lowndes County youth work alongside plumbers correcting sewer issues

Published 11:33 pm Monday, May 8, 2023

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Some Lowndes County high school students are doing their part to help people in rural areas have safe, functioning toilets and sewage disposal systems. 

“This is our second annual Community Plumbing Challenge and students from Central [High School] and The Calhoun School are going inside the homes inspecting all the fixtures of the toilets to make sure they are working properly. If they are not working, we will replace those for free,” said Sherry Bradley, director of the Black Belt Unincorporated Wastewater Program (BBUWP). 

Bradley said BBUWP is partnering with the non-profit group The International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation (IWSH) to train and employee the students to aid in sewer improvement projects.

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Bradley and IWSH members, along with certified electricians and plumbers, will work with students checking to make sure newly installed toilets and septic systems are working properly.

Student Devin Lewis is working in the program for the second year.

“It was a great experience. You learn different things,” Lewis said while taking a break from an organization meeting on May 8. 

He said he is proud to help,“You go to people’s homes to find out what’s wrong with their water systems. I am definitely thinking about pursuing this kind of work as a career,” Lewis said.

The students are paired with certified, professional plumbers who work with them assessing the water systems, and the plumbers make any repairs that are needed.Lewis is working with Ohio native Michael Webster who is a manager with Lixell American Standard. Webster said working with the students is a winning combination.

“These guys are great. They were really helpful last year with getting us the information we needed,” Webster said. “We took that information and used it to determine which houses needed which products, and that is what the plumbers are going to be working on this week.” 

The group has hundreds of homes with systems in need of assessment. There are many teaching tools being used to guide the students.

Webster said, “We have some demonstration boards to help them learn a little more about what problems to look for in the systems.”

The students are being paid $15 per hour for their work. Bradley says the inspections are very important.

“When we install the low water use fixtures on the inside, it helps the septic tank system that we install on the outside to perform better,” she said.

According to Bradley, students will work alongside certified plumbers and electricians, but they will also be accompanied in the homes by two chaperones.

“We will be working all this week in parts of Hope Hull, rural Fort Deposit, Tyler, and Calhoun. We will be working all over the Black Belt region,”Bradley said.

To learn more about IWSH visit www.iwsh.org. For information about BBUWP call (334) 300-6619 or email BBUWP@yahoo.com.

Student Devin Lewis will work with certified plumber Micheal Webster inspecting homes to ensure plumbing works properly. Photo by Tana Shealey