Press Release | October 9, 2023

EPA asked to intervene in Prichard Ala. water crisis 

Environmental justice groups ask EPA to address endangerment to human health

PRICHARD, Ala. — Today the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), on behalf of We Matter Eight Mile Community Association and more than 20 environmental justice and faith-based groups, drafted and submitted a petition asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help secure access to safe and affordable drinking water for the citizens of Prichard, Alabama.  

The people of Prichard face a water crisis after years of neglect and mismanagement of the Prichard Water Works & Sewer Board’s water system. Nearly 60 percent of Prichard’s drinking water leaks from the system. This creates a contamination and reliability risk for residents, and for fire rescue first responders who rely on water pressure for fire hydrants to work. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management describes Prichard’s water services lines as “very poor” and in “dire shape.” The city’s own testing confirms chronic inadequate disinfection and positive bacteriological sampling since 2021. The city’s frequent sanitary sewage overflows caused the groups even more concern over the city’s ability to keep its water supply clean.  

More than 90 percent of Prichard’s nearly 20,000 residents are Black and nearly 70 percent of residents earn a lower or fixed income. The city itself has faced many financial setbacks, including decades of disinvestment and multiple bankruptcies. Mismanagement of a recent $55 million bond by the Prichard Water Works Board is blamed for a devastating 22 percent rate hike for residents.  

“Life begins in water and is sustained by water. Access to clean water is a God given right that should never be taken away,” said Carletta Davis, President of the We Matter Eight Mile Community Association. “Those responsible for protecting our right to clean, affordable water have epically failed us.” 

The groups are asking EPA to step in using its emergency powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act because Prichard’s water system failures create an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health. The groups want EPA to provide financial assistance for water system upgrades, participate in a lawsuit involving the mismanagement of $55 million in bonds, and enforce and develop a long-term consent decree to address water contamination issues. The groups also request that EPA provide meaningful community engagement in any decisions about the public utility.  

“The Prichard Water Works & Sewer Board’s track record of incompetence proves they cannot guarantee safe or affordable drinking water for their customers,” said Ryan Anderson, Associate Attorney for SELC’s Alabama office. “We’re asking EPA, a governmental entity that has a responsibility to uphold safety, to step in and use their authority because this water crisis is endangering the people of Prichard.” 

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Terah Boyd

Communications Manager (AL/GA)

Phone: (404) 521-9900
Email: [email protected]

Partner Contacts

Carletta Davis

We Matter Eight Mile Community Association

Phone: 251-229-1106
Email: [email protected]