PRICHARD, Ala. (WKRG) — The Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a petition on behalf of We Matter Eight Mile Community Association and 20 other environmental justice and faith-based organizations. The petition asks the Environmental Protection Agency to use its “emergency power” to step in and help with the city’s water crisis.

It requests that the EPA do three things:

  1. Assist in funding upgrades to the drinking-water system
  2. Participate in receivership proceedings involving the Prichard Water Works and Sewer Board and Synovus Bank; inform the judge that the EPA is considering taking action
  3. Enforce and develop a long-term consent decree with the board that will address the drinking water infrastructure and contamination issues discussed in the petition

A report from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management showed that the system faces “excessive nominal water loss” of 64%. The report also found there were multiple instances where “residual chlorine levels were found to be significantly lower than 0.2 mg/L.”

The petition states, “ADEM’s inaction has caused the Prichard community to lose access to one of the most basic human rights — access to safe drinking water.”

In August, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. partnered with Inframark, LLC. to invest in PWWSB so it would not fall into a receivership. If the board went into receivership, a judge would appoint someone to handle its day-to-day operations.

In September, the PWWSB approved a 22% rate increase in a 4-1 vote for the 2024 fiscal year. Their total revenue in 2023 was $11,419,124, and for 2024, the board projects a revenue of $14,432,631.

Prichard directors and pastors signed the petition:

  • Carletta Davis — President and Executive Director — We Matter Community Association
  • Joe Womack — Executive Director — C.H.E.S.S. (CLEAN, Healthy, Educated, Safe and Sustainable)
  • Julius Haston — Walls of Salvation Ministries
  • Andre Milsap, Sr. — Temple of Jerusalem Cathedral
  • Richard Nichols — Destiny Vision Christian Center
  • Pastor John — Light of the Village
  • Rev. Robert L. Boykin — True Light Missionary Baptist Church
  • Robert Emmanuel — Friendship Missionary Baptist Church
  • Ernest Gwinn — Church of Glory
  • Rayford Barnes — Philidelphia Baptist Church
  • Nikeland Nichols — Executive Director — P.U.S.H. Inc. (Preserving Under Severe Hindrance)
  • Archie Rankins — Sure Word Ministries
  • Eddie Morrisette — Taylor Chapel CME Church
  • Marvin Lue — Stewart Memorial AME Zion
  • President Benard Simelton — NAACP AL State Conference
  • Tessa Bettis — The Center for Fair Housing
  • Dr. Mildred McClain — Executive Director — Harambee House, Inc./Citizens for Environmental Justice
  • Amelia Bacon and Beverly Cooper — Co-founders — Orrin Davis Chair & Stand UP Mobile
  • Dr. Afia S. Zakiya — Independent Consultant (Water Infrastructure & Workforce Development)
  • Dennis McFarland — Wade in the Water
  • Danny Patterson — Board Chair — The Lighthouse Community Development Corporation
  • Michelle Allen — Volunteer Network Deputy Director — Food & Water Watch
  • Sarah Stokes — Senior Attorney — Southern Environmental Law Center
  • Ryan Anderson — Associate Attorney — Southern Environmental Law Center
  • Micah West — Sr. Staff Attorney — Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Crystal McElrath — Senior Supervising Attorney — Southern Poverty Law Center