Sandbranch is a small, poor, largely African American community just outside Dallas but its residents have to rely on charitable donations of bottled water
It’s a sweltering Saturday in October and Pastor Eugene Keahey is becoming agitated. His flock live in a Texas town that hasn’t had running water in 30 years and the donated bottled water they rely upon is in short supply.
” We got six cases of water from a donor but two have already gone in the last hour ,” said Keahey, eyeing the line of people waiting for their weekly handout of food and water from the Mount Zion Baptist church in Sandbranch, a largely African American community that lies 20 minutes and a world away from Dallas.
Recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida have diverted the attention of non-profits away from the sisyphean battle endured in Sandbranch.” I’m going to have to come up with a plan, get on Facebook and beg or borrow water from somewhere ,” said Keahey.
” People come for gifts from outside the cities and it’s difficult to say,’ No you can’t get water because you’ve got operating water at home.’ My test is to say’ What do you do with the bottled water ?’ If they just say they drink it, I have to say no because people here shower, brush their teeth with it, everything .”
Keahey, a stout human with a greying beard and half-moon glass, rubbed his face.” This is a full-time job. It’s not part time. Water is like gold here .”
Sandbranch has no water pipe, sewerage, trash collect or street lights. In an added dash of irony, the sprawling Dallas Southside water treatment plant is situated about 10 yards from Sandbranch, its rusting barbed wire fencing operating along the north bound of the town.
The slow, dry disintegrate of Sandbranch is startling but little known even among the Dallasites who neighbor this crumbling enclave that extends off a quiet stretching of looping freeway to the south of the metropolis. The population once stood at more than 500, dwindled to less than 100 by 2010 but has anecdotally rebounded with some newcomers attracted by the cheap land.
” Everyone around us has water but not here ,” said Detra Newhouse, a 46 -year-old who grew up in Sandbranch with her grandparents.” For a while people didn’t even bathe. Some still don’t. There’s a man who lives nearby and I don’t think he’s had a proper bath in 20 years.
” We are a dirty little secret no one wants to talk about. I was listening to MSNBC talk about Flint, Michigan, the other day and what is happening there is unconscionable. But I supposed,’ Yeah, and what about us? What about us ?'”
Many residents are at a loss as to why they have been forgotten. Officially, Sandbranch’s woes stem from being small, unincorporated and situated on a floodplain region that restricts new development.
But the fact that low-income minority areas in the US are often blighted by environmental problems, whether it’s tainted water or toxic air from nearby industrial plants, is well understood here. Sandbranch is a jarring example of environmental injustices that have pockmarked the US for decades.
” We don’t have water here and you know why ?” asked Ivory Hall, a spry 83 -year-old black human who deftly slaps my limb as he makes his point.” The pigment of my skin. If I were white like you I bet they’d have water down here .”
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