Environmental Health Assessment available online

Published 2:17 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2024

On Jan. 18 the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) launched its comprehensive Environmental Health Assessment by placing the Assessment online, and soon will be mailing a printed copy of the Assessment to households in Lowndes County, along with a postage-paid return envelope. Visit https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/environmental/ to complete the Assessment electronically. Residents are strongly encouraged to respond either by mail or online.

The purpose of the Assessment is to find out who is facing the most serious health risks from exposure to raw sewage (wastewater) and needs help the soonest.  Information from the Assessment will be used to prioritize households for getting new onsite septic systems through ADPH.  This information will be kept confidential and cannot be used against you for any claimed violation of a sanitation law, including in any criminal proceedings.

Lowndes County residents who use septic tank systems need better and safer ways to dispose of wastewater from their homes.  Many septic systems are not designed or installed to work with the Lowndes County Black Belt soil.  This type of soil does not properly drain wastewater away from homes.  Individual septic tanks can cost a lot of money and often stop working because of the drainage problem.  Residents who rely on straightpipes or septic systems that do not work properly may be exposed to raw sewage which can make you sick.  

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ADPH is responsible for reviewing applications and designs of septic systems to ensure they are properly designed for the soils of Lowndes County.  This includes handling public health threats, such as exposure to raw sewage.  ADPH now has a program for installing onsite septic systems that can work in Lowndes County soil.  

Systems will be installed at no cost to residents. Priority for the free onsite systems will be based on factors such as:

  • Failing septic system or use of straightpipes
  • Location of raw sewage on the property
  • Household members in certain age groups
  • Households with members with medical conditions that might place them at higher risk of becoming sick from sewage exposure
  • Resident’s ownership of the property

This Assessment is part of a voluntary legal agreement between ADPH and the United States Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services.  The United States conducted a civil rights investigation of the ADPH sanitation programs, and on May 4, 2023, ADPH agreed to take immediate actions on the raw sewage exposure issues in Lowndes County.

The Assessment questionnaire first asks residents for general information about themselves, their property, and their sewage disposal situation. Questions ask about:

  • The sewage systems in their homes and if there are any problems with them.
  • Medical conditions of the home’s residents and the medications they take.
  • Their interest in programs to install or repair their septic system.

One person aged 18 or older is to complete the assessment for the household. It should be mailed to the ADPH, using the pre-paid return envelope.  Participation is voluntary, and only one assessment is to be filled out per household.  All information will be stored securely for confidentiality.

ADPH asks Lowndes County residents with straight pipes or with septic tanks that do not work properly to visit the website below or contact (334) 206-5373 to get information about getting a septic system designed, installed or repaired so that it works with their property’s soil.  ADPH will not use their personal information to report straightpiping or having a septic system that does not work.

Go to the Lowndes County Septic System Program web pageor call (334) 206-5373 to learn more.