Decades of disinvestment and failing infrastructure shortchanges Black communities.
By Henry Carnell | Mother Jones
When Tyrone Pettway saw his water bill in October 2021, he thought it was a typo. The bill was for $2,384.51, some $2,300 more than what he usually owed the Prichard, Alabama, water board every month.
The city has over 21,000 residents with a poverty rate of 35% with a median household income of $26,000. The city’s African-American residents who are 89% of the population.
The document claimed Pettway, his wife, and their five kids had used 167,000 gallons of water over the course of the 34-day billing period, amounting to nearly 5,000 gallons a day. But Pettway was sure they had used no more water that month than they normally did: 3,700 gallons total, or about 18 gallons per person per day—much less than the national average of 82 gallons a day per person.
They hired a plumber who said there was no leak on their property. Pettway was not surprised. “If I had a leak, pushing that kind of water, I would see it somewhere,” he told NBC 15 News following the incident. “Even if it was underground. It’s going to float up somewhere.” So they disputed the amount. They did not have much choice. Pettway is a self-employed construction worker. He makes enough to provide for his family and his community—he builds ramps for free for disabled people—but that’s about it. Instead of acknowledging Pettway’s concerns, however, the Prichard Water Works and Sewage Board sent him a new bill for November, which took his charges and added extra expenses, bringing the cost to almost $3100, according to court records. Pettway again disputed the bill. In response, his water was shut off.
Are the water board’s action akin to racism although the five-member board are all black?
Read the full article here.