The Cahokia Heights, a small city in southern Illinois, has undergone many changes this year. Its new name is the result of the merger of the three towns of Centreville, Alorton, and Cahokia-a move that strengthens the municipal budget in the suburbs of the St. Louis area and makes residents want more adequate services. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that sewage overflows often occur, lined up along the streets with human excrement-a problem that has plagued the main black residents of the area for 40 years, and even prompted some people to buy boats. To sail in places full of excrement. Waters when roads are impassable.

Since January 26, there have been at least 28 sewer overflows in the Cahokia Highlands.The city is not alone: ​​American communities of color bear a disproportionate burden Aging and failed wastewater infrastructure. Wastewater networks across the country received a D+ rating in an analysis American Society of Civil Engineers ——Severe weather events related to climate change are becoming more frequent, and these problems are exacerbating.

In March, residents of Cahokia Heights believed that a solution was about to emerge.City officials claim that with the merger of the three towns, the new city will be eligible for $22 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grantsOr FEMA to improve their sewage system, which has deteriorated for decades due to reports of negligence and corruption by elected officials. However, when FEMA rejected the city’s grant application, the solution fell into the well-known toilet. This month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stepped in.In the past three weeks, federal agencies have issued two orders aimed at Prevent drinking water pollution with Prevent sewage overflowThere are still two major obstacles: the order is not accompanied by financial support, and the EPA has not set a specific compliance period.

Yvette Lyles, a resident of Centerville (formerly known as “The poorest town in America”) Over the past 25 years, I have expressed disappointment that the government has not invested a lot of resources on this issue.

“When they give you the title of the poorest city in the United States, it is heartbreaking-you have some money in front of you that could really help our community, and then we will never see it again,” she told Ge Lister.

In July, Lyles joined the other two dozen other residents, bringing litigation Cities and local water districts that have failed to maintain their sewage systems in the past 30 years. “It’s time to let them defecate or cook,” she said of the local officials.

From time to time, the floods forced Lyles to leave the house and threatened the health of her and her family. Residents of Cahokia Heights have been exposed to a lot of bacteria and mold, and local doctors speculate that the water in the area may even be heart disease.

“If I’m still young, I’m not old or disabled, I’ll leave here,” Lyles added. “But my house is paid, and I can’t go to other places to receive social security. So all I have to do is wait for them to do the right thing.”

The EPA requires the city to submit a plan to control sewer overflows, which can cause water to flow back in residents’ homes and yards. One of the biggest problems facing the system is that the pumping station in the area-designed to direct sewage away from local streets and homes-has not been updated since World War II. In addition, the order also requires the municipal government to conduct sewer system inspection training for sewer employees, and formulate daily inspection and maintenance plans, as well as plans to better resolve residents’ complaints and work instructions. Because the city is located in a low-lying area, short-term rainfall can cause flash floods; EPA stated that the city needs to better prepare for these weather-related events.

EPA District 5 Administrator Cheryl Newton said in a press release: “This order will help the city focus on identifying the most urgent need for sewer system maintenance to protect public health.”

However, if there is not a large amount of money to fund these improvements, residents worry that their cities will see more of the same. In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided grants to neighboring towns that shared the same water supply system as Cahoki Heights to repair the sewage system.But the officials not only did not solve the problem Funds used To alleviate other debts.

The Mayor of Cahokia Heights, Curtis McCall, has said that flooding is his top priority, and given that he served as the chairman of the agency that manages the city’s dilapidated sewer system, some residents are skeptical. He promised to use all the funds allocated to the city through the American Rescue Program Act (ARPA) to solve the problem. If the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure package goes into effect, $56 billion will be used to update the nation’s aging drinking water, wastewater, and rainwater systems. But for now, the ARPA funding available to Cahoki Heights is only $2.8 million-less than 15% of the funds the city originally expected to receive from FEMA.

For Lyles and other Cahokia Heights residents, it is back to the waiting game. They are fully aware that the strong support of the federal government may take years, if any.

“We live in the richest country in the world, but not everyone gets the resources they deserve,” Lyles said. “We are human beings and citizens of this country, we are not livestock.”

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