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Civil Rights Action on Combined Sewer Overflows in Indianapolis

By Thomas G. Neltner

When it rains, sewer systems where sewage, industrial wastewater, and storm water combine in a single pipe to be conveyed to a wastewater treatment plant often overflow into neighborhood streams. Sewage in neighborhood streams creates an environmental injustice to residents. In a complaint filed with the Environmental Protection Agency, minority residents alleged that the City of Indianapolis and its mayor violated their civil rights because the City's sewer system had a disproportionate impact on them. Their complaint has yielded various tangible benefits to Indianapolis' minority community.

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