'Forgotten community': City has had enough, demands federal action for Fifth Ward cancer cluster

A study in 2019 determined that a plethora of issues were linked to tainted ground water from Union Pacific Railroad operations.

Thursday, September 23, 2021
Houston mayor demands federal action for Fifth Ward cancer cluster
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Mayor Turner is asking the EPA to step in to "advance environmental justice" after the community has seen no action from Union Pacific.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Will the federal government finally get involved in a health crisis ABC13 has been reporting on for years? A cancer cluster tied to the railroad in Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens has left the community feeling forgotten.

Despite extensive reporting, nothing tangible has been done for neighbors dealing with a plethora of issues that a study found are linked to tainted ground water. The City of Houston is now urging federal action.

READ MORE: 'They're killing us' 5th ward neighbors say of contamination from railyard

"Everybody has died on the street, and they are continuing to die on the street and suffer," said one resident, whose mother died after being diagnosed with three different types of cancer.

It's been years of frustration since residents in Kashmere Gardens learned they were living amongst cancer-causing chemicals, which is believed to have been brought on by Union Pacific Railroad operations.

Now, they wonder why they haven't been able to directly express their concerns to Union Pacific, or see improvements.

"We've been waiting and waiting," another resident said. "What's it gonna take for the action to exactly take place?"

In a letter from Mayor Sylvester Turner's office to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the agency is asked to "help mitigate environmental risks to this overburdened community and advance environmental justice."

The mayor also asks that the EPA works with Union Pacific to ensure that, under permit renewal, if approved, it includes a commitment to correct the issues and "resolve the disproportionate environmental burdens the community has suffered."

SEE ALSO: Residents and mayor demand accountability for Kashmere Gardens 'cancer cluster'

"We're just like the forgotten community," resident Sandra Edwards said. "They don't talk to us. They don't respond to us."

The last time residents heard from Union Pacific regarding their concerns was in June. So, what came from that?

"Nothing. That was a flop," Edwards said. "That was a show. That was a circus."

Residents feel as though they've received no answers or solutions as Union Pacific was questioned by state leaders like Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee in regards to how they're correcting the issue.

"We know now. We have proof we've been damaged, generationally. We have been impacted. Some of us have moved," resident Joetta Stevenson said. "Our homes are deteriorating, and yet you've done nothing except try to run and hide."

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