UNITED STATES NEWS

Houston to spend millions to relocate residents living near polluted Union Pacific rail yard

Jul 13, 2023, 2:04 PM

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston plans to spend millions of dollars to relocate residents from neighborhoods located near a rail yard polluted by a cancer-linked wood preservative that has been blamed for an increase in cancer cases, the city’s mayor announced Thursday.

Texas health officials in 2019 identified a cancer cluster in Houston’s historically Black Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens neighborhoods. A second cluster was identified in 2021. Health officials have found higher rates of respiratory cancers as well as childhood cancers, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Residents and local officials have long blamed the high number of cancer cases on contamination from a Union Pacific rail yard near both neighborhoods. Creosote, which has been associated with an increased risk of contracting cancer, was used for more than 80 years at the site until the 1980s. City officials say the contamination has reached the groundwater in the neighborhoods.

In September 2022, the Houston Health Department announced that testing of surface soil samples from around the Union Pacific rail yard found dioxin, a highly toxic chemical compound associated with cancer and other health risks.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city has spoken with Union Pacific for months about helping relocate residents, but the company has indicated it wants to wait until additional testing is complete. Testing of the area through a consent order from the Environmental Protection Agency is set to be conducted through September, with the results scheduled to be released by December.

Union Pacific “has an open invitation to help fund this (relocation) effort and to participate in this process, if they so choose. But they not only have a legal obligation, they have a moral obligation. How many more families do you need to see suffer? How many more children must die before they have a moral obligation to step in?” Turner said during a news conference.

In a statement, Union Pacific said additional testing is “required to accurately determine the true extent and source of contamination in the neighborhood. Relocation should be based on a human health risk assessment.”

Union Pacific said it’s focused on the community’s safety, and it has “made measurable progress with on-site clean-up since acquiring the property in a 1997 merger and are committed to finishing the job.”

Residents of the neighborhoods say they have long felt their concerns for their health and safety have been ignored by the railroad company and by local officials.

Pamela Matthews, 61, who has lived in the Fifth Ward neighborhood since she was 5 years old, said Thursday was the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death from cancer. Her brother is currently fighting cancer. Her family home is two blocks from the Union Pacific rail yard.

“My kids, my grandkids, that was the family home. We put everything we had vested into that property and we made it through and we were happy and we had God and we didn’t think for one second that we were at risk,” Matthews said during Thursday’s news conference.

Turner said relocating families from among the 100 properties that have been affected by the contamination could cost up to $26 million. The city is looking at internal as well as federal funding to help pay for the relocation program, which will be put together by a strike force made up of health, housing and community development officials.

No timetable was given for when the relocation process could be completed. Turner said the relocation effort will extend beyond his administration as his final term as mayor concludes at the end of December.

___

Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

United States News

Associated Press

Latest deadly weather in US kills at least 18 as storms carve path of ruin across multiple states

VALLEY VIEW, Texas (AP) — Powerful storms killed at least 18 people, injured hundreds and left a wide trail of destruction across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where dozens sought shelter in a restroom during the latest deadly weather to strike the central U.S. The storms inflicted their […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Stock market today: World shares are mostly higher after rebound on Wall St

Shares advanced in Europe and Asia ahead of Monday’s Memorial Day holiday in the United States. Oil prices also rose. European shares saw modest gains after the opening while Asian benchmarks gained upward momentum as the day wore on. Germany’s DAX edged 0.1% higher to 18,713.43 and the CAC 40 in Paris rose 0.2% to […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Lightning strike kills Colorado rancher and 34 head of cattle

DENVER (AP) — A lightning strike killed a Colorado rancher and 34 head of cattle over the weekend, officials said Sunday. Mike Morgan, 51, was feeding his cattle from a trailer when he was struck and died on the scene despite life-saving efforts, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said. The lightning bolt struck on wide […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Former ‘General Hospital’ actor Johnny Wactor killed in downtown Los Angeles shooting

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former “General Hospital” actor Johnny Wactor was shot and killed when he interrupted thieves stealing the catalytic converter from his car in Los Angeles, his family said Sunday. The shooting occurred around 3 a.m. Saturday when the victim approached three men in downtown LA, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. […]

10 hours ago

Michael Cohen leaves his apartment building on his way to Manhattan criminal court to testify in Do...

Associated Press

Here’s what every key witness said at Donald Trump’s hush money trial

Testimony is over at Trump’s criminal trial featuring 22 witnesses, including a porn actor, tabloid publisher and White House insiders.

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Christian group temporarily opens beaches it has closed on Sunday mornings as court fight plays out

OCEAN GROVE, N.J. (AP) — For the first time in generations, beachgoers were out on the sand in a New Jersey shore community on the Sunday morning before Memorial Day as a Christian religious group fights the state over its regular beach closures there during Sunday services. The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist […]

15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Houston to spend millions to relocate residents living near polluted Union Pacific rail yard