HOWARDSVILLE, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - A historic African American neighborhood in Northern Virginia is surviving on well water and using outhouses despite being in one of the wealthiest counties in the commonwealth.
About 10 people call the Howardsville community home and FOX 5 is told they’re all African American.
As first reported by the Loudoun Times, all of Howardsville’s residents are using well water, and in some cases, bottled water to cook, bathe and live.
“Right now, we’re buying our water from supermarkets and places like that,” 74-year-old Howardsville resident Thomas Reid explained.
Howardsville resident Harris Tracy said even though the community pays taxes, it feels helpless against the county.
Tracy said his home is worth about $100,000. In comparison, the median home value in Loudoun County is $500,000.
“You’re out in the country,” Tracy said. “You can’t do anything with these rich people around here. You know. What are you going to do? Who are you going to fight?”
Harris Tracy, Howardsville resident 2:54 “There’s a lot of places here in Loudoun County that are the same way,” Tracy continued. “They don’t do anything for us.”
The NAACP has demanded that Loudoun County pick up the pace on addressing the situation in Howardsville and has a meeting planned with the county this week. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall has been a vocal supporter of fixing the problem, moving to pass the $1.4 million Howardsville wastewater system in 2015 — but now a plan to implement the fix is needed.
When asked what has delayed Howardsville's wastewater system, Loudoun County provided a statement which read in part:
"This work has been ongoing for a number of years. The process has been somewhat lengthy because many steps are required to construct a suitable wastewater system, and Howardsville, in particular, faced a number of challenges. The process includes acquiring land, identifying funding, and obtaining the necessary contracting and permitting approvals. In addition, because there is no suitable land in Howardsville for a community wastewater system, the County had to look outside Howardsville to identify suitable property. The property for this project was identified in 2018. The Board of Supervisors provided the necessary approvals for construction of a wastewater system on April 10, 2019. Concurrently, the County is working with Loudoun Water to design and build the community wastewater system. We anticipate that wastewater services for the existing Howardsville residents should be operational within two years."
Loudoun County officials went on to say that the county was "not obligated" to provide water or wastewater systems or maintain private wastewater systems and water wells. Those responsibilities, the county said, were the responsibilities of the property owners.
While Loudoun County requires newly-constructed developments to have adequate water and wastewater systems, county officials said many of the Howardsville properties impacted by the issue were constructed before the requirements existed.