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HOUSTON (CW39) — The City of Houston and Harris County have announced they plan to sue Union Pacific over a cancer cluster in the Fifth Ward.

Local leaders formally delivered a 90-day notice of intent to sue Union Pacific on Wednesday.

“The letter to UP is the latest step in the City’s ongoing efforts to bring redress to the historically African-American communities of the Greater Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “For too long and at too high a cost, UP has ignored and disrespected these communities. The cost is too high, and the burden on these residents is too great.”

Earlier this month, the City announced the discovery of the chemical Dioxin in a single surface soil sample taken on June 15, 2022, near Liberty Road and Lavender St. in Kashmere Gardens. Following the detection in the initial sample, the Health Department gathered more samples and is conducting laboratory testing of the samples. The Health Department is also proceeding with a community plan to inform residents. It will continue working closely with the EPA, the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

“The City has urged and will continue to urge the federal government to join and lead the future lawsuit against Union Pacific. This active involvement by the federal government is expressly provided for in the statute and would bring to bear the greater resources of the federal government in litigating these claims and providing relief to the residents, particularly funds for new housing,” said City of Houston Attorney Arturo Michel.

Neighbors say this is a step in the right direction since the Fifth Ward community has been pushing to get answers for so long.

The finding of Dioxin in the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens area is noteworthy and underscores why we are working aggressively to protect families and their children. We already know that the Texas Department of State Health Services found a higher-than-expected acute lymphoblastic leukemia cancer rate at nearly five times the expected rate in that community.

“We cannot stand still and do nothing while people die or their health suffers. So, we are looking at how we can assist people in Kashmere Gardens and the Fifth Ward. As we move forward in this collective action, people need relief, and they needed it years ago,” said Mayor Turner.