Burned brush at construction site blamed for breathing problems

July 2, 2013 4:49:19 PM PDT
Residents in a Sugar Land neighborhood say they're worried about what's in the air they're breathing. They live just around the corner from a development project where crews are clearing land for a new subdivision.

We've had complaints from several people who say their breathing is being significantly impacted by the clearing of this land, as they burn trees and brush. But the city says it's not possible that their health problems are from this.

Hailey Alexander is just 12 years old. Most of her life she's struggled with severe asthma. Monday night she was rushed to the emergency room again.

She said, "I can't even go outside to play with my friends for more than 20 minutes without having asthma symptoms."

It's been worse, she says, since the project began across the freeway from where she lives. About a mile northwest along Highway 59 near the Brazos River, where 54 acres of land is being cleared, with trees and brush burned to make way for new homes.

Hailey's mother Lisa Alexander said, "There's only one person who benefits from burning all those acres of forest and it's the person who owns the land."

Hailey and her doctors have significantly increased her medications and she's using supplemental oxygen.

"It's a scary thing not being able to breathe," she said.

And she's not the only one.

Asthma suffere Kristin Gunnerson said, "If it's affecting a large amount of people, we should stand up and say, you know what, we gotta stop."

The company permitted for the burning -- MK Constructors -- refused our repeated requests for comment. The home builder, M/I Homes, insists everything here is done in compliance with permits.

Both of those who complained to us live on the south side of Highway 59. A spokesman for the city says winds during burns have all blown the smoke away from them.

"Her home is just physically upwind from the site with the prevailing wind patterns we've determined it's not affecting her area," explained Sugar Land spokesperson Doug Adolph.

Those who study atmospheric science say prevailing winds can change direction so it's entirely possible the smoke could be affecting those living to the south.

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