Many households in Lee County, Virginia, sit on plots of land that are too small for septic systems, where the soil is inadequate, or where the household simply cannot afford a septic system. Households in Lee County that are unable to afford the installation of conventional or alternative septic systems resort to straight-piping raw sewage into local waterways or distant locations in their yards. The implications of straight-piping are significant stressors to human health and the environment. In order to install legal septic systems, households must go through an array of bureaucratic and expensive steps that households in poverty cannot afford. This paper will analyze and critique the legal methods of installing septic systems and determine if households living in poverty can realistically implement septic systems. This case study of Lee County will bring to light the geographic, financial, and legal issues associated with sewage treatment in rural America for households in poverty.

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