Report Highlights Sewage Woes in Lowndes Co., New Law Expands Access to Naloxone

Jun 10, 2016

Raw sewage behind a home in Lowndes County, Ala.
Credit Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise

A new report on sanitation and drinking water has singled out Lowndes County, Alabama for its widespread lack of sewage systems for its residents.

According to the report from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, around 80 percent of Lowndes County residents don’t have access to municipal waste treatment and have to install their own septic systems. Those systems can cost up to $30,000 thanks to the type of soil in the area, and the median household income in Lowndes County is just $26,000.

As a result, many homes don’t have any sewage system whatsoever. The report says that’s led to an increase in diseases like hookworm and other tropical conditions not usually found in the United States.

The Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise is working to improve the situation and has received a grant from the EPA to address the issue, but director Catherine Coleman Flowers says state lawmakers haven’t taken any action to provide resources.

Alabama public health officials are praising a new law that expands access to a drug that can reverse overdoses of heroin and prescription painkillers. APR’s MacKenzie Bates has the details.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health say the legislation allows pharmacists to distribute naloxone and unlimited refills to people who may be called for help during an overdose and people who may be at risk of having an overdose.

Naloxone blocks opioid receptors and reverses the effects of a potential overdose from drugs including heroin, morphine and oxycodone. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the drug might be used in the form of a nasal spray or as an injection.

Officials say expanded access to the drug could help first responders save lives during emergencies.

Environmentalists have released a map and study about the state’s 50 most-needed road improvements.

The Southern Environmental Law Center and Black Warrior Riverkeeper say the study does not include the Northern Beltline.

Nelson Brooke is the Black Warrior Riverkeeper. He says that single project is receiving more funding priority than fifty other projects that would cost much less to address.

“That interest in putting $5.3 billion dollars into one road versus $4.6 billion into 50 projects that will benefit these people across the state is a very clear image that the prioritization for road projects in Alabama is messed up.”

Brooke also says work on the Northern Beltline seriously impacts the Black Warrior River watershed area.

Lawyers are expected to make their closing arguments later today in the ethics trial of Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Final statements from the prosecution and defense will take place as proceedings begin later this morning. The jury is expected to begin deliberations later in the day.

Mike Hubbard is facing 23 felony ethics charges accusing him of using his current position as Alabama House Speaker and previous role as state Republican Party chair to obtain business and investments for his companies. Hubbard has maintained his innocence. If convicted on even one of those charges, he’ll automatically be removed from office.

APR’s MacKenzie Bates will be in Opelika today attending the proceedings and will have the latest news on All Things Considered this afternoon.