HOUSTON – In Houston’s historic Fifth Ward, neighbors worry that politics and profits are taking priority over cleaning up their community.
“We’re boxed in with toxic hazards, and that is unacceptable,” says Joetta Stevenson with the Fifth Ward Super Neighborhood Civic Club. “To prioritize quick development over the full cleanup of a contaminated neighborhood is not just only gentrification at its worst, it’s environmental racism.”
The M.D.I. Superfund site is a 35-acre tract of land contaminated from a foundry that went bankrupt in 1992.
“A history of contamination with lead followed this entire community starting with the relocation of Bruce Elementary where every single child in the elementary school had elevated levels of lead,” says Yvette Arellano with the environmental group T.E.J.A.S.
And just because you don’t call the downtown area home, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned.
“In this case we’re talking about soil, we’re talking about a city that when it rains, water stands, or it flows,” says Stevenson.
The community rejects the Trump administration’s proposed budget that cuts superfund money by 30%.
Demonstrators also reject recommendations from the task force set up by the new EPA Chief, Scott Pruitt.
“These recommendations encourage private investment in the site cleanups that allow quick inadequate remediation. This site here is not fully cleaned up, with the evaluation process near complete and once completed, it will be deleted from the list of EPA’s national priorities,” explains Rosanne Barone with the Texas Campaign for the Environment.
They also fear a developer that purchased the land wants to build luxury condominiums A.S.A.P. Development, they say, will skimp on cleanup, and price them out of their homes.
Folks here cite that as recently at 2016, 3% of children in the area, 15 and under, were still testing above the acceptable level of lead in their system.
Washington, D.C. decisions hitting home, and for H-town, a community resisting profits over progress.