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Abstract

Anecdotal evidence suggests that historically African American communities on the fringes of cities and towns in North Carolina have been systematically denied access to municipal drinking water service. This paper presents the first statistical analysis of the role of race in determining water access in these fringe areas, known as extraterritorial jurisdictions. Using publicly available property tax data, we quantified the percentage of residences with municipal water service in each census block in Wake County (the second-largest by population in North Carolina). Using the resulting water service maps plus 2010 U.S. Census data, we employed a logistic regression to assess whether race is a significant predictor of water service access in census blocks within extraterritorial jurisdictions when controlling for property value and population density. We find that every 10% increase in the African American population proportion within a census block increases the odds of exclusion from municipal water service by 3.8% (p<0.05). These results suggest the need for follow-up research to explore the resulting health implications, especially because previous studies have shown that the private wells upon which such communities rely for potable water are at elevated risk of contamination from leaking septic tanks and other sources.