HOUSTON- There’s now a deadline of August 31 for Union Pacific to submit their cleanup plan for the contaminated rail yard in the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens areas.
On Monday, Senator Borris Miles, Mayor Sylvester Turner, representatives from TCEQ and the Houston Health Department were among those gathered to give this update.
Residents of the community raised concerns, tests were done and those tests found groundwater and soil contamination and higher cancer rates. Creosote, a wood preserving carcinogen often used on railroad ties, was found at the site.
Earlier this year, the city conducted a door-to-door survey that found that 13 out of 30, or 43% families in that area self-reported a cancer diagnosis. That is well above the average cancer rate for Houston, which Mayor Turner says is six percent.
Senator Miles says getting a deadline in place for the cleanup is a step in the right direction.
“Although this will not bring back the lives that have been lost or heal those who are still fighting for tomorrow, this is the first step in ridding our community of this environmental hazard,” said Miles.
Mayor Turner says this used to be a very vibrant community and he expects the cleanup to be thorough so it can be vibrant again.
“It is important for the clean up plan to be material, to be credible, reliable and something that the people can trust. We are all committed to doing what we must do to make this area a safer place in which to live,” explained Turner.
The head of the TCEQ Remediation Division explained they asked Union Pacific to continue to collect more environmental data throughout the process. They say the company has started that and they will continue to do so throughout the spring and summer.
Once Union Pacific provides their clean up plan, TCEQ says they will review it and then put it out for public comment.