July 13, 2022 -- The City of Houston Health Department has notified the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality about 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.
The City of Houston, Harris County, and community leaders have consistently pressed Union Pacific and state agencies to do more to determine the extent of contamination and to protect residents’ health and property in the area. The Houston Health Department recently stepped forward to test for dioxins in soil near the former railroad creosote treatment facility in Kashmere Gardens.
According to the EPA, dioxins are persistent organic pollutants (POPs), meaning they take a long time to break down once in the environment. Dioxins refers to a group of toxic chemical compounds that can cause certain types of cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, and can interfere with hormones.
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 and will continue working closely with the EPA, the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
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,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We already know that the Texas Department of State Health Services found a higher-than-expected cancer rate of acute lymphoblastic leukemia at nearly five times the expected rate.”
Earlier this month, Mayor Turner and Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee announced they would each submit Notices of Intent to Sue pursuant to the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to Union Pacific Railroad ("UP") in connection with long-standing contamination in Houston's Fifth Ward from UP's Houston Wood Preserving Works creosote treatment facility.
“These findings support what residents of Kashmere Gardens have been telling us about their exposure to toxic chemicals. This is inexcusable and shouldn’t happen in the richest country in the world, or anywhere for that matter. We cannot wait to take action to protect the people living in this community,” said Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee. “I’m glad that the city, county, and federal government are all working together to ensure that residents of this historically underserved community get the answers and the solutions they deserve.”
"The residents of Kashmere Gardens have been through a lot, and they have every right to be informed about the findings. Like anyone else in Houston, they have a right to demand and expect a safe environment, and the City will never stop advocating on their behalf," said Mayor Turner.