Fifth Ward residents plead for action from EPA on cancer cluster

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Residents in Houston's Fifth Ward are pleading for action on a cancer cluster identified in their area.

"This is historic land over here. This is where Black people came with their families. They started out," said resident Sandra Edwards. "Look at it now. It looks rundown because no justice was done over here, no funds came to this community."

A chemical used to treat rail ties was once used at a nearby railyard now operated by Union Pacific. The chemical is now known to cause cancer, and residents say it remains in the ground in much of Fifth Ward.

They have protested before. They've waved signs, and they've yelled into megaphones. And it's made a difference.

Back in November, EPA Administrator Michael Regan toured Fifth Ward, even sitting down in Edwards' front yard.

In January, our cameras were there as Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee told residents the EPA, for the first time, was rejecting the state's initial evaluation and announcing the situation was more toxic than previously understood.

The EPA is also now requiring more air monitors and increasing inspections.

"This is America. The people that live in these communities are American, but we don't get our justice," said resident Walter Mallett. "We get put at the back of the line, we get shunned, we get put on mute."

The EPA has promised a clean-up plan. But one month later, residents here say they haven't heard any details.

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Those who live in the Fifth Ward said they are finally being heard when it comes to a dangerous cancer cluster identified in their area.

"You run your train through our community and you think we're not worth talking to? That's crazy. We're human, treat us as such. That's all I'm asking," Edwards said.

ABC13 reached out to Union Pacific and the EPA for more information, but we haven't heard back.
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