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ADPH Marks Anniversary of Lowndes County Agreement

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is marking the 1-year anniversary of its Interim Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by announcing actions taken to address onsite sewage issues in Lowndes County. Since ADPH signed the Interim Agreement on May 3, 2023, ADPH has created an Environmental Health Assessment to analyze health risks related to exposure to sewage from failing onsite septic systems. ADPH has also started the Lowndes County Septic System Improvement Program to install ADPH-approved septic systems that can properly dispose of onsite sewage. A local not-for-profit organization will administer the new program for ADPH.

ADPH is using information collected from the Environmental Health Assessment, which was developed in conjunction with DOJ, HHS, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to prioritize installation or repair of septic systems at residences most-at-risk of exposure to raw sewage. The Assessment asks questions concerning failing septic systems or straight pipes, location of raw sewage on the property, how often raw sewage backs up into the home, and the age and medical conditions of household members that might place them at higher risk of becoming sick from exposure to sewage. All information provided is confidential and cannot be used against residents for any claim of a sanitation law violation.

ADPH urges Lowndes County residents to fill out the Assessment immediately because the number of septic systems installed is limited to available funding. The Assessment is available online at: https://epiweb.adph.state.al.us/redcap/surveys/?s=XAMAXKHDRXXXLDLE and was mailed to all residences in Lowndes County (4,907 addresses). Based on the ranking system ADPH developed with DOJ, HHS, and the CDC, ADPH has analyzed and prioritized the first round of septic system installations. ADPH will share the results of the ranking system with the selected program administrator after analysis of each batch of Assessments are completed. The selected program administrator is then responsible for contacting soil professionals to conduct a soil test at the residence. Test results are used to design a septic system specific for the lot conditions. The selected program administrator will then hire a licensed septic system installer to use this design to install a system. ADPH will not seek liens on properties related to the installation, repair, or maintenance of systems under the Lowndes County Septic System Improvement Program. Any contractor or subcontractor under the program cannot place such liens.

ADPH is conducting community outreach to residents and stakeholders to address questions and concerns about the program. ADPH's frequently asked questions resource for the program is online at: http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/onsite/sewage.html. ADPH will continue community outreach meetings through the Lowndes County community liaison, Ursula Crittenden, (LCCL@adph.state.al.us or (334) 548-2564) and will seek funding opportunities for Lowndes County onsite sewage issues. ADPH maintains its public health information campaign on sewage-related illnesses by providing information to health care providers and informational flyers about risks associated with exposure to raw sewage and properly maintaining a septic system.

Under the Interim Agreement, ADPH developed a Public Health Infrastructure Improvement Plan (PHIIP) to lay out the steps ADPH will take to address onsite wastewater issues in Lowndes County and to implement the Lowndes County Septic System Improvement Program. The draft PHIIP is available at https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/environmental/assets/phiip.pdfand ADPH requests Lowndes County residents and other stakeholders to provide comments on the PHIIP to ADPH atwww.alabamapublichealth.gov/environmental/contact.htmlby June 1, 2024. The PHIIP will also be available through the Lowndes County community liaison. The Final PHIIP must be approved by DOJ and HHS.

More information on the Lowndes County Septic System Improvement Program is available at the Lowndes County Health Department or at the ADPH Bureau of Environmental Services website.

 

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