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Falling Between the Cracks


I ran across this interesting article the other day, the link to the site is no longer active so i’ll post excerpts of it here.
 ‘I haven’t had a bathroom all my life’ says Ethel 77. No this is not Africa or Asia this is in the good ol’ USA – Willisville VA (only a 1 hour drive from D.C.)

Virginia hamlet waits for indoor plumbing
Sewage treatment project drags on seven years just miles from mansions
By Amy Gardner (Washinton Post)
Origenally posted: 9:46 a.m. ET March 5, 2006
Less than a mile down the road from a million-dollar emblem of greater Washington’s housing boom, Emma G. Howard and her son, Bishop, tote drinking water from neighbors or buy it at the Safeway eight miles away. They scrape their plates into a slop bucket on the kitchen floor and wash them in a basin of boiled water.

And they relieve themselves in a wood-planked outhouse across the back yard.

The Howards and 15 other people live in the western Loudoun County hamlet of Willisville. Surrounded by rolling pastures, horse-country manors and new mansions — many with four or more bathrooms — most of Willisville has existed without indoor plumbing since it was founded just after the Civil War, when freed slave Heuson Willis bought a cabin on three acres for $100.

It was terrible land then, and it is terrible today: soggy, heavy with clay, not fit for crops, pastures or, more recently, simple septic tanks. But on the eve of the 21st century, Loudoun officials promised to help. In 1999, the county received a state loan to build a small sewage treatment plant in Willisville.

Seven years later, at least six residents live with outhouses and no running water; an additional nine live in houses with failing septic systems. Construction on the sewage plant has not begun, and its projected cost has more than doubled, from $250,000 to about $600,000. Design delays, bureaucratic hurdles and government neglect have caused the Willisville On-Site Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Project to founder, county officials say.

“It’s a travesty, I think,” said the Rev. Reginald A. Early, who moved to Middleburg from Portsmouth, Va., in 2000 to become pastor of Willisville Chapel, which is among the properties with substandard plumbing. “Coming from the city and seeing some of our elders coming out of outhouses in the 21st century, it was just mind-boggling.”

All the more outrageous, he said, is the proximity of luxurious new houses. Angela King, 43, can see one through the woods from her back door. King, who grew up in Willisville, is among its luckier residents; she has a failing system rather than none. But across the street, rented Johnny Blues stand outside the Smiths’ and the Lees’ homes, pumped clean by a service truck once a week. In those houses, family members keep chamber pots in their rooms at night.

“The rim is really thin, so you would have the pot mark” on your skin, said Jennifer M. Thompson-Grant, 30, a deputy clerk in Loudoun County Circuit Court, who grew up with no plumbing at her grandmother’s house and lived there with her young son until last year, when she moved in with her mother.

‘I haven’t had a bathroom all my life’
Thompson-Grant and her cousins never brought friends home from Loudoun Valley High School because the plumbing wasn’t worth explaining. But she doesn’t mind talking about it now and recalls fondly how normal it all seemed — how strict her grandmother was about hot baths and clean pots and keeping her white-plank outhouse bleach-clean.

Nevertheless, Thompson-Grant said, she has grown impatient with the slow pace of progress, worrying foremost that members of the older generation will slip away without ever taking a hot shower or flushing a toilet in their own homes.

A little more than an hour from the U.S. capital, Ethel S. Smith, 77, still bathes in an aluminum tub on her kitchen floor. Howard, who has trouble walking across the yard to an outhouse made warmer by a patch of carpet on the floor, uses a hospital-style commode in her bedroom.

“It’s just something we happen to have,” said Smith, a retired schoolteacher who lives in a wood-frame house with two dogs tied in front, chickens and pigs in the back and a brown portable john standing sentry over a clutter of old cars, swing sets and scattered piles of wood. “I haven’t had a bathroom all my life.”

The fact that an affluent, fast-growing county — where leaders plan to spend a half-billion dollars building 15 schools in the next six years — has allowed one of the smallest capital projects on its books to drag on for so long has perplexed not only the people of Willisville but also Loudoun community leaders and elected officials.

“I’m extremely disappointed that it has taken so long,” said Supervisor James Burton (I-Blue Ridge), whose district includes Willisville. “Clearly, staff dropped the ball and let it slip through the cracks, and I think that is unfortunate.”

end of excerpts.

Categories: Curious Chronicles
  1. April 7, 2006 at 3:07 am

    Unfortunate. No shit.

  2. April 7, 2006 at 5:46 am

    Unfortunately they still have lots of that. I know what you mean though.

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