The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday February 6th

EPA takes interest in Rogers Road civil rights complaint

Six years after a Rogers Road resident filed a complaint against local governments with the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA seems to be taking new interest in the case.

The complaint, submitted by Rev. Robert Campbell in 2007, dealt with a lack of utilities in the Rogers Road community. The historically black neighborhood, which has housed Orange County’s landfill since 1972, continues to deal with issues such as a lack of access to sewer service.

Bob Epting, a lawyer for the Orange Water and Sewer Authority, said the EPA recently requested to speak with the community’s water service provider.

Epting said he will meet with EPA representatives at the end of May.

“That email came sometime within the last six weeks,” Epting said.

“That email said that the EPA’s (Office of Civil Rights) would like to have a telephone call with me about the Rogers Road issues.”

Carrboro’s attorney Michael Brough sent an email to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen on May 6 expressing his concerns regarding the EPA’s email to Epting.

Brough said he was worried the Town of Carrboro may need to examine its contracts with the Rogers Road community if an investigation is opened.

Recently, local governments approved the construction of a new community center in the neighborhood.

“I do not know where this is going or what effect, if any, this may have on the current discussions regarding the community center,” Brough said in the email.

But Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton said he is not worried about any threat to the community center.

“I think the Town of Carrboro is committed to putting significant resources into the community because we feel we have a moral commitment to do so,” Chilton said.

He said the fact that OWASA had received an email from the EPA was not enough to suggest an investigation would take place.

“I don’t think it has a major impact unless some kind of reason emerges to become concerned that the civil rights complaint is headed somewhere,” he said.

Chilton said the complaint instead should make the towns consider their legal obligation to the Rogers Road community. He added that he doubts the issue falls under the EPA’s jurisdiction.

“I don’t think, under federal law, that the civil rights complaint amounts to something the federal government should get involved in,” Chilton said.

Epting said OWASA agreed to extend sewer services in 2007 to Rogers Road residents who requested it.

But he said no residents submitted a request.

OWASA policy states it will only extend service if residents make a formal request and accept the cost of the extension, Epting said. People living on Rogers Road would have to pay for the extension through monthly service charges.

“The residents who were unserved did not want to pay for the extension,” Epting said.

Carrboro Alderwoman Jacquelyn Gist said the town remains attentive to the needs of the Rogers Road community.

“All of the governing bodies have committed to putting significant moneys into that community and have already put significant moneys into the community,” she said.

Gist said she thought the recent actions of local governments with regards to the neighborhood were focused on community needs. She added that she doubts the need for a federal investigation.

“I think this is a bureaucratic action as opposed to a community action,” she said.

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