Department of Justice to investigate ADPH and Lowndes County Health Department on hookworm allegations

Alabama

LOWNDES COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – The United States Department of Justice announced the opening of an investigation into the wastewater disposal and infectious diseases and outbreaks programs of the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the Lowndes County, Alabama, Health Department (LCHD).

This comes after allegations of hookworm infections being caused by practices of the health departments.

The Civil Rights Division will conduct the investigation to determine whether the ADPH and LCHD operate their disposal and outbreak programs in a way that discriminates against Black residents of Lowndes County.

Allegedly, the health departments are violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The investigation will be conducted to decide whether the health departments policies are limiting Black residents access to adequate sanitation systems that have in turn caused residents to have adverse health reactions like hookworms.

For specifics, this is what the Department of Justice says the investigation will center:

“The investigation will also examine whether the health departments’ policies and practices have caused Black residents of Lowndes County to have diminished access to adequate sanitation systems and to disproportionately and unjustifiably bear the risk of adverse health effects associated with inadequate wastewater treatment, such as hookworm infections.”

In a news release, one assistant attorney for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division shared the importance of sanitation.

“Sanitation is a basic human need, and no one in the United States should be exposed to risk of illness and other serious harm because of inadequate access to safe and effective sewage management. State and local health officials are obligated, under federal civil rights laws, to protect the health and safety of all their residents. We will conduct a fair and thorough investigation of these environmental justice concerns and their impact on the health, life, and safety of people across Lowndes County, Alabama.”

There have been no conclusions drawn about the allegations about this case, those with information on this case are encouraged to contact the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section via email at al.lowndes.ej@usdoj.gov.

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