Erin Brockovich, local and state officials host town hall regarding cancer cluster in Fifth Ward

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HOUSTON — A town hall meeting was held Tuesday night at Wheatley High School concerning the cancer cluster found in the Fifth Ward. Environmental activist Erin Brockovich as well as state and local leaders were there to address what’s next for the community.

The hope was to talk about next steps, solutions and resources after a study by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found elevated cancer rates in the Fifth Ward.  Several studies have been done on this, including one by the Texas Department of State Health and one by the Houston Health Department.

A recent Houston health department survey found 43 % of Fifth Ward families living in homes located over a creosote contamination plume report at least one cancer diagnosis.

 

That survey was done by local health department employees and volunteers earlier this month going door to door to 110 properties in the neighborhood to find out more about the residents’ concerns about the contamination.

The carcinogen causing concern is creosote. According to the EPA, it has been used as a wood preservative since the mid-1800s. It was used at a railroad yard located near the neighborhood for more than 80 years.

Brockovich addressed the crowd, encouraging them to ask questions and to know that it will take persistence to get through this.

“I have to tell you, everyone in this room, your middle name is stubborn, you are dogged, you are determined, you are persistent. That is what it's going to take to see yourself and your family and your community to the other side of this and I assure you we can get there,”  Brockovich said.

The health department study revealed that lung cancer was one of the most common types of cancer among the people that participated in the survey and their family members.

The railroad yard is owned by Union Pacific. Officials say the company is working with the state health department.

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