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Raw Sewage and a Raw Deal in Rochelle, GA


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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
03 May 2013, 11:00 AM
When the town's toilets flush, guess what ends up in African-American yards
Nine residents of Rochelle, GA are suing their city government for discharging the city's raw sewage onto their properties.

Alisa Coe and Bradley Marshall—attorneys in our Florida office—took off on a two-hour drive last month and ended up 60 years away in the rural Georgia town of Rochelle, where black people live on one side of a railroad track and whites on the other.

You’ve heard of this place if you pay attention to news; last weekend the national media was reporting on the local high school’s first interracial prom … ever.

But even as the media focused on the prom, Alisa and Bradley faced up to the town’s mayor and chief of police, who bullied the two attorneys as they investigated claims that the city’s sewer system routinely dumps raw sewage into the streets and yards of the black community (but not the white community). The mayor used his car to block the attorneys’ car when they drove into a black neighborhood, and then screamed and threatened them with arrest. The chief of police pulled up with his lights flashing and told the duo to call him before coming back to Rochelle.

Those fellas obviously didn’t know who they were messing with.

Alisa and Bradley are members of a legal team led by managing attorney David Guest, who is famous in Florida for such things as ignoring alligators as he wades through the Everglades investigating environmental offenses. The whole team’s infused with that spirit.

Monica Reimer, along with residents of Rochelle, investigate a manhole from which raw sewage flows into neighborhood backyards.Monica Reimer, along with residents of Rochelle, investigate a manhole from which raw sewage flows into neighborhood backyards.
View photo slideshow »

So—without calling the chief of police—Alisa and Monica Reimer, another attorney in our Florida office, went back to Rochelle a few days ago, armed with cameras to record evidence of environmental injustice and to document any more intimidation tactics. The bullies stayed away this time, letting the attorneys sign up, as clients, nine African-American residents who are tired of raw sewage bubbling up through manholes and pipes into their lives. After decades of living like this, they want it to end.

No one describes it better than Rufus Howard, a night shift worker who talks softly as he walks about his backyard showing puddles of raw sewage and describing how they can’t use the toilet or shower and can’t wash for days when sewage lines get full. He sums the issue up thusly:

They [city government] won’t do something about it. They live comfortable and I want to live comfortable, too.

Raw sewage in Rufus Howard's backyard.Rufus Howard points to the raw sewage
flooding his backyard.  View photo slideshow »

It’s nothing more complicated than that. Rufus and all his friends and neighbors just want the simple comforts of the white community—not the raw sewage. They want nothing more than to flush away sewage, not use shovels to clear it off their properties.

Sixty years ago, folks in towns all over the South were fighting and dying for the unfettered right to vote, the right to sit in the front of buses, to eat in restaurants without checking their skin color at the door, and even for the right to use the bathroom without having to read racial directions on the door. As a very young boy in that bad old South, I saw bathroom signs that said, “White Only” or “Negro Only". Today, so many decades later, those printed signs are gone, but other signs of discrimination persist … all over the yards and streets of folks who asked Earthjustice to help force the ruling system to fix the sewage system on the black side of the railroad tracks.

Raw sewage pools in Mr. Howard's backyard.Raw sewage pools in Mr. Howard's backyard.
View photo slideshow »

Yesterday, that help began when Alisa filed an official demand with the city to correct its sewage discrimination or face the wrath of a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit. They have just 60 days. We'll keep you posted.

Just one more reason why the planet and its people need a good lawyer … like Alisa, Bradley and Monica.

IF YOU TOOK THE TIME TO READ THE HOLY WORD OF GOD,KNOWN AS THE BIBLE, PERHAPS YOUR OUTLOOK ON SKIN COLOR WOULD INDEED CHANGE. THE RAINBOW THAT APPEARS AFTER A CLEANSING RAIN IS INDEED BEAUTIFUL TO BEHOLD, WITH ALL ITS OUTSTANDING COLORS.COULD YOU IMAGINE WHAT IT WOULD LOOK LIKE IF IT HAD ONLY THE APPEARANCE OF BLACK AND WHITE? IF YOU TAKE NOTICE, EVERYTHING OF GOD'S CREATION HAS COLOR, FROM THE MAJESTIC ANIMALS TO THE BIRDS AND INSECTS AND HIS CREATION THAT IS FOUND IN THE MANY OCEANS.THE EARTH ITSELF IS SURROUNDED BY THE CONSTANT BEAUTY OF NATURE ITSELF, ALL A COLORFUL SPECTRIM, FOR ALL OF MANKIND TO ENJOY.IF WE WERE ALL WHITE OR IF WE WERE ALL BLACK OR ANY OTHER COLOR, THE WORLD WOULD INDEED WOULD BE A DULL PLACE TO LIVE.GOD LOOKS UPON THE HEART,NOT COLOR OF THE SKIN, IF YOU WOULD TRY THIS YOURSELF YOU WOULD FIND OUT THAT YOU HAVE BEEN MISSING OUT ON THE MOST PRECIOUS AND BEAUTIFUL THINGS OF THIS LIFE.THE INTERACTION, COMMMUNICATION AND THE LEARNING AND LOVING OF ANOTHER INDIVIDUAL,IS ONE OF THE MOST CHEERISHED AND TREASURED MOMENTS ONE COULD HAVE IN ALL OF LIFE, ONE THAT CAN GO WITH YOU WHEN YOU LEAVE THIS LIFE. SOMETIMES ITS ALL WE NEED IS TO TAKE A FIRST STEP IN COURAGE AND FAITH TOWARDS CONNECTING TO AN INDIVIDUAL WHO MAY BE DIFFERENT IN SKIN COLOR OR OTHERWISE BE DIFFERENT, TO FIND THEIR RADIANT COLORS OF THEIR HEART, THAT CHANGES OUR HEART, THIS TAKES PLACE IN THE TWINKLING OF GOD'S OWN EYE.YES,GOD INDEED IS A GOD OF COLOR. WE ARE ALL HIS CHILDREN AND HE LOVES ALL HIS CHILDREN VERY MUCH. FOREVER.

IF YOU TOOK THE TIME TO READ THE HOLY WORD OF GOD,KNOWN AS THE BIBLE, PERHAPS YOUR OUTLOOK ON SKIN COLOR WOULD INDEED CHANGE. THE RAINBOW THAT APPEARS AFTER A CLEANSING RAIN IS INDEED BEAUTIFUL TO BEHOLD, WITH ALL ITS OUTSTANDING COLORS.COULD YOU IMAGINE WHAT IT WOULD LOOK LIKE IF IT HAD ONLY THE APPEARANCE OF BLACK AND WHITE? IF YOU TAKE NOTICE, EVERYTHING OF GOD'S CREATION HAS COLOR, FROM THE MAJESTIC ANIMALS TO THE BIRDS AND INSECTS AND HIS CREATION THAT IS FOUND IN THE MANY OCEANS.THE EARTH ITSELF IS SURROUNDED BY THE CONSTANT BEAUTY OF NATURE ITSELF, ALL A COLORFUL SPECTRIM, FOR ALL OF MANKIND TO ENJOY.IF WE WERE ALL WHITE OR IF WE WERE ALL BLACK OR ANY OTHER COLOR, THE WORLD WOULD INDEED WOULD BE A DULL PLACE TO LIVE.GOD LOOKS UPON THE HEART,NOT COLOR OF THE SKIN, IF YOU WOULD TRY THIS YOURSELF YOU WOULD FIND OUT THAT YOU HAVE BEEN MISSING OUT ON THE MOST PRECIOUS AND BEAUTIFUL THINGS OF THIS LIFE.THE INTERACTION, COMMMUNICATION AND THE LEARNING AND LOVING OF ANOTHER INDIVIDUAL,IS ONE OF THE MOST CHEERISHED AND TREASURED MOMENTS ONE COULD HAVE IN ALL OF LIFE, ONE THAT CAN GO WITH YOU WHEN YOU LEAVE THIS LIFE. SOMETIMES ITS ALL WE NEED IS TO TAKE A FIRST STEP IN COURAGE AND FAITH TOWARDS CONNECTING TO AN INDIVIDUAL WHO MAY BE DIFFERENT IN SKIN COLOR OR OTHERWISE BE DIFFERENT, TO FIND THEIR RADIANT COLORS OF THEIR HEART, THAT CHANGES OUR HEART, THIS TAKES PLACE IN THE TWINKLING OF GOD'S OWN EYE.YES,GOD INDEED IS A GOD OF COLOR. WE ARE ALL HIS CHILDREN AND HE LOVES ALL HIS CHILDREN VERY MUCH. FOREVER.

Anonymous, I did not think there were people as stupid as you sound still around. Incredible! Unbelievable!

God did not create 'races' of man. S/he created one race of man with various skin colors. You do not speak for the USA, so don't use "God bless America" when you are being intolerant. This problem is not an accident.

Nonsense, it is the city's responsibility to fix 100% of the sewage system, residents then pay their fair share. I do not believe I have ever read anything more appallingly racist than your statements, further, God has absolutely nothing to do with this, I know you are going to be in for a very big surprise when you come before your Maker.

This bum-scratching, crotch-pulling rationalization demonstrates just what repeated interbreeding between first cousins does to the mental capacity of their offspring. Amazing, this one figured out how to use spell-check. Probably plays holy roller with snakes on Sundays. Ooooooweeeeee!!!

I assume that you are attempting some kind of humor. Otherwise you demonstrate the historic perspective of the southern level of intelligence. I spent time in large southern cities and didn't find them any more or less racist then the rest of the US. However, many of the small towns I visited have never entered the 20 century much less this one.

I am quite sure God does not like You better, after those insensitive,racist and ridiculous comments!

Coincidence???? What a racist, backwards, inbred, knuckle-dragging moron you are, as are the small-brained mayor and police chief. Your mythological christian/god fantasies just prove that you are one of the brain-dead amongst us. Do us all a favor and go meet your maker.

Oh Boy.....have to stop you there, this has nothing to do with GOD....If you had a relationship with him maybe you would know this... God is not a respector of persons, this is a biblical verse that mean he loves us ALL the same. This is about IGNORANCE, and the fact that people have freedom of choice (another bible verse) therefore God does not interfere unless we ask him to. As far as I see God is answering the Black communitys prayers, hopefully some heads will roll for doing this cruelity to another HUMAN BEING... Also God say blessed are those who suffer, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs....be careful where you tread GOD is POWERFUL......

God created different races to test and teach us about LOVE....

GOD Bless, and please pray for the gift of Wisdom, it appears you could use some.... ;=)

I believe that each person's religion is their own business. And that religion is for the person's comfort and solace. But when you start to impose your "interpretation" on people around you, especially in a negative way, there is only one thing that can be said: YOU ARE A BIGOT AND A MORON. But that is not just me saying that. My G-d told me you are because you treat his creations in such a bad way. Please just sit down, cross your legs and STFU.

I am not sure what Bible you have been reading from, but I don't know where it says God like whites better. Don't just spread your insane thinking on this blog and pretend to know the Bible. I am 100% sure, you are part of the problem, you sound like a racist pig! You disgust me.

NO...
God intended for us to correct such situations of inequity.

How can you call this GOD'S will - this is the will of people who do not respect ALL people, of any color. Prove to me that Jesus was not a person of color. IF you believe in a Christian God, you are taught that God loves ALL his children, not just white ones.

Sir or Madam:

You are so full of B.S. that you should be flushed down one of those pipes.

All people are the same inside. It depends on the color that God painted the skin. Yes, thats right, God. So who are you to say different?

This is the ignorance which perpetrates these types of circumstances indicated in this article. Sad for you and your small brainwashed mind and those who have fed you this type of ideology. No God intended any reasoning being to be subjected to living in forced squalor. If throwing God around to justify your idiocy is necessary, biblically God created a law for humans and how to properly dispose of human waste thus explaining why it was necessary and the health risks which would ensue if this law were not kept. But it doesn't take a mental giant or the bible to figure this out you poor, sad, scary person.

Wow that is some high level trolling there. Seriously if I were a troll connoisseur this post would be one of my favorites. Subtle yet obvious in it's trolling.

Wow. To this Classic White Southern: Could it be that you are WRONG. I lived in the The South where Black neighborhoods are so poor that their homes have no value. No one can sell a home worth zero, though mortgages are paid at outlandish interest rates. And this before the Great Recession. Rats ran under the floorboards of the houses. There is no money to provide streets let alone correct sewage lines. There was a similar story of environment justice in a town in SC where the hospital, city and county illegally dumped garbage, including bio-hazard waste in a black neighborhoods. Septic Waste companies emptied their waste loads in the streets rather than pay the fees to legally depose of it. Yes, Anonymous God Bless America Writer ... it happens. But this is not the Will of God. This is the will of MAN. You are sadly misguided spiritually and I pray that you will be enlightened to the Truth.

If not for the tireless work of one Man and his community, things would not have changed in Spartanburg, SC either. From 1990 to present Harold Mitchell Jr. works to reverse the damage done over decades of abuse. This is a true story and he is a true hero.

The people of this town need to contact their Regional EPA office and the Attorney General of GA. Call Harold Mitchell. He can advise you. Good luck and God Bless You.

Are you for real? It's hard to believe that someone like you even exists today.

Why is it that those who holler god's name the loudest know the least about his teachings?

Are you for REAL???? Crazy ideas like yours are one reason I don't trust anyone who spouts off about what God wants and doesn't want. It's 2013, not 1813 or even 1913.

Dear Anonymous, You must be one of those born again, end time idiots. I think your type of thinking is a complete cop out and a poor excuse for doing nothing. You obviously don`t understand the essence of Jesus` teachings. You know, little things like love , compassion; not to mention justice. Time to get some smarts before the real end times. Will you really be ready ?

I believe we've got a little sarcasm going on here!

Where were you born and raised, in a cave???

You obviously are a southern bigot who has been infested with hatred all of your life. God wants it to be this way? It is very hard to play God and seek God at the same time! Not our fault? Whose fault is it pray tell? Your inbred stupidity is showing!

There are many African-American communities here in NC that have cumulative adverse impacts from landfills, waste-water treatment facilities, construction debris dumps, etc.
The one that relates to this story, is a community that participated in all public input opportunities to avoid a waste-water treatment facility in their town. The result, after court, was that the WW treatment plant was located in their neighborhood anyway, and they were not given an opportunity for sewage service. The community remains on old septic tanks and hookups are prohibitively expensive for them. Shame on us white people.

Charles City County, VA: Leaves a lot to the imagination. I go to fracking waste water out of PA.
God doesn't choose to fix or not fix the sewer pipes. HE allows man to make choices.

Peace

I can't help but wonder if you are just playing with peoples emotions here. However I do suppose there are people who actually think as you do but then most of them aren't ignorant enough to get on a site like this one and post their `backard-assed` opinions. As far as this GOD you speak of, you know, the one who only likes white guys and hates everyone else? Well I think you have created him in your tiny little mind and he doesn't really exist at all now does he?
Regardless, I guess you do have a right to express your opinions however repulsive they may be. So you stay the course and keep fighting for your right to suppress the rights of all those dirty races that don't look like you.

If what anonymous says and believes and that there are many more like him/her who believe this this country is in deep p---.
but then any excuse is better than none and to blame God for what is happening is stupid.

This is the best example of irony I have ever seen. LMAO!!

Very funny. Your tongue-in-cheek parody of a religious crackpot is pretty darn good. Probably would have been even better if you'd misquoted some scripture to support your point. But, you know, some idiots actually believe this kind of stuff. Naturally, their IQs equal that of a potato, but still....

God gave me a voice and you are one dumb stupid white person. Oh, I am an American Black man.

I'm confused -- in your first sentence you state that the sewage situation is "purely an accident" and yet a few sentences later you state that "God wants it to be this way." Which is it? Accident? God's will? How do you even presume to know what God wants and doesn't want? And did you really compare slavery to the COMMON COLD????? It "just pops up?" Warts pop up. Slavery is a cancer. Maybe it's just me, but I'm having a really hard time wrapping my head around the idea that a human being could even believe this stuff. It boggles the mind.

Your comments are more Klu Klux Clan and definitely non Christian.
Perhaps you are the accident of nature.

Your comments are more Klu Klux Clan and definitely non Christian.
Perhaps you are the accident of nature.

This Person is a loon an racist.

This is one of the most ignorant comments I have ever heard. My guess is, 'you' happen to be white?

Everyone has an equal right to happiness, and just treatment. Instead of just 'accepting it' if things are unjust, we should fix them. It was a 'mistake' that the whites got their pipes fixed, but not the blacks? Okay, the blacks would obviously like their pipes fixed as well. So, fix the mistake.

It's obvious by reading the replies to this comment that people really don't understand irony. But then, they thought that Jonathan Swift was seriously proposing eating Irish children when he wrote "A Modest Proposal." You have to expect people to take things literally when you write.

There is nothing at all rational in stating that "God" "likes white people better." Any time a person brings "God" into a discussion that is not about theology, they are out of order. That person's belief or fantasy has nothing to do with the reality of another human being or the reality of this universe. Love it; practice your belief or fantasy and accept the fact that it is your own...not someone else's.

This comment proves that race is still a issue and if this person can still think like this then imagine if they had the ability or mental competency to run for public office or law inforcement. What affect would that individual have on the community they service. This is exactly why this artical and this particular issue and perspective has merit.

It is the "true Believers" in this nation who frighten me with your utter, intentional refusal to recognize the US Constitution. You say it is coincidence that caused the sewers on the mostly white side of town to be repaired while the sewers on the mostly black side were not repaired....I say you are a true believer who will commit or allow ANY atrocity because "God said that's how it should be" simply because you are AFRAID to ask yourself the hard questions...You are no better than the Nazis....DISGUSTING and truly UN-American....Dispute me and I will direct you to READ the US Constitution (especially the Bill Of Rights and the first 5 Amendments)...IF you can read, that is....

Really? You can't be serious. I can't believe there is someone talking this way. God did not mean for anyone to be mistreated in anyway. The segregation itself may have just happened, but, repairing the sewage system on the white side and not the black side is not an "accident", it is down right ignorant.

As for your claim that this is how God meant it to be, you need to study your Bible a lot more. God created ALL people equally, it is in the Bible, check it out.

I am quite sure this was written in jest, and some people aren't getting it.
While what you said isn't subtle, people are taking you seriously. Too bad.

As the Good Book reads, You will reap what you sow. :) God doesn't bless a country, by the way... I don't think He/She gives one care in the universe about America. But, its people and all the peoples of the world, yes..
Your comments are depressing, to say the least.

Please tell me that entire post was sarcasm. Please tell me you don't really believe any of that.

I think this author is being sarcastic ....
Is not, think that author needs to get psychiatric help! :)

Ok, this has GOT to be sarcasm. I simply refuse to believe that, not only does someone THIS stupid exist, but that this person is willing to display their ignorance and hateful racism, and then drag God into his/her ugly circle as though some how they are co-conspirators in the ignorance. That trifecta cannot exist in nature.

I think this author is being sarcastic ....
Is not, think that author needs to get psychiatric help! :)

this person is just a troll, trying to get people worked up. don't pay attention to it, that is just what it wants.

If you voted at all during the last presidential election, I bet I know who you were for!

This comment is a gleaming example of the uncouthness many half-wit white people have in most small towns in the United States, specifically when it comes to their discrimination between other types of humans. We are all humans and regardless of type, skin color, sexuality, incest origin, or haircut if there's a sewer issue in a "small" town they should fix the entire system.

The only accident here is you opening up the useless hole in your face to comment here.

Never bring God's name into segregation issues especially if you are predgious. It's one of the woest sins one can do! Read & study your Bible and you will find that God DOES NOT condone segregation. We are all one under God no matter what color or mix of colors you are. Your remark, "People need to stop thinking that we can do anything about God's will and nature." is is a false statement. Humans do indeed set up the sewage issues wrongly. God had nothing to do with it. It was human decisions that were at hand, NOT GOD'S. :)

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