Problem Scope

Sewage pipe extending from a home in Lowndes County,  AL

Sewage ditch beside a road in Lowndes County,  AL

Lowndes County is one of many counties in Alabama’s Black Belt region that have historically been underserved for a number of reasons. A coalition of universities and government entities are working to address the lack of wastewater treatment that is a problem for as much as fifty percent of Alabama’s rural Black Belt residences.

Homes are not served by public wastewater treatment systems, and septic tanks can be prohibitively expensive. A common home-made solution is known as a “straight pipe”, which consists of a PVC pipe connected to the home that transports waste away from the home, usually into a depression or at a lower elevation. The untreated waste can make people and animals sick and contaminate ground- and surface water.

Engineering Chair Leads Study on Black Belt Wastewater Management


The Lowndes County group has been working with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) to locate an appropriate project site and with universities such as the University of South Alabama to learn about past and current work in the area. The team plans to work alongside ADPH to develop solutions for sites that pose challenges in soil type, elevation, and other unique and unfavorable characteristics.

Travel team with community leader.

EWB advisor and members with Alabama District 7 US Representative Terri Sewell (center) at a health fair held for Lowndes County residents.