Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret by Catherine Coleman Flowers, Bryan Stevenson (Foreword)

‘My story starts in Lowndes County, Alabama, a place that’s been called ‘Bloody Lowndes’ because of its violent, racist history.’

I read a review of this book and was horrified. Could it really be true, I wondered, that an estimated 90% of households in Lowndes have failing or inadequate wastewater systems? Surely not in the USA, the richest country in the world? I borrowed a copy of the book from my library and read on.

At its heart, this is the story of how and why Catherine Coleman Flowers became an activist. It is a memoir and a social history as well as a fight to ensure human dignity through basic sanitation. Ms Flowers writes of the health issues encountered by those forced to share their yards with raw sewage, often living in rotting trailers with mould covered walls. She writes of Pamela Rush’s situation, and how help was at hand when Pamela Rush died of COVID-19 at the age of 49.

I finished the book, hoping for change and wishing that Pamela Rush had lived. I hope that Ms Flowers and others continue to make a difference. I finished the book wondering how the richest country in the world can have some of its citizens living in such awful situations.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith