Residents hold meeting to discuss cancer cluster in their neighborhood

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020
For over a year, residents have demanded answers about the higher-than-expected rate of cancer in that area.
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For over a year, residents have demanded answers about the higher-than-expected rate of cancer in that area.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Neighbors in Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens aren't happy with Union Pacific Railroad.

"Meetings and talking don't get things done if you don't come out here and start getting them done," Lisa Harris-Glenn said.

RELATED: Residents say high cancer rate caused by nearby rail yard

For years, people in the area claimed they were being sickened by chemicals at the nearby rail yard.

A recent study by The Texas Department of State Health Services may have given them the tangible evidence they were looking for. It found a higher-than-expected rate of cancer in that area, specifically of the lung, throat and esophagus.

RELATED: 'Cancer cluster': Fifth Ward residents talk with health department

Although the study didn't give a cause, the EPA says cancer-causing agents most likely are to blame. Legal reps for the neighbors and a group called IMPACT say the wood-preserving chemical creosote seeped into the soil, creating a hazardous plume that moved beneath at least 110 homes and churches, contaminating groundwater.

In an on camera interview with ABC13, Union Pacific addressed the neighborhood concerns.

Benda Mainwaring is with the rail company, which purchased land more than twenty years ago which was previously contaminated.

Since then they've worked with the state to clean the property. While some blame Union Pacific alone, the company said today its property is just 33 of 8-thousand acres included in the state issued report. And it's not the only site working with the Texas Commission On Environmental Quality, the TCEQ.

"These neighbors deserve answers. But they deserve answers that actually get at the heart of the matter," said Mainwaring. "Those incidents (of cancer) that they've looked at are widespread throughout that entire 8-thousand acres and within that area there's about 200 sites that TCEQ is monitoring for environmental issues. "

"They're not moving fast enough for me. Now that we know there is a plume and people getting sick, you know. I don't want to see nobody else die within the next six months because of this plume," Harris-Glenn continued.

Union Pacific claims it is taking steps in the right direction. They sent out a letter to neighbors, announcing they would be drilling boreholes in the coming weeks. They say it's to collect data to tell how the ground is impacted and if so - how much.

"You can bring you boreholes or whatever you want to bring in, monitor whatever you want. Get us out of here while you (are) doing it. That's only fair," neighbor Sandra Edwards said.

Edwards is fed up. She says only she and four other neighbors remain on her street, which sits directly across from the rail yard. The rest have died from cancer.

She's ready for her area to be cleaned up and restored once and for all.

"It's a big slap in the face, you know. We were telling you, we come to you with stuff you already know - then you want to turn around and come out like you're really trying to help. Putting boreholes in to monitor. What (are) you monitoring? That we're going to die? No, we don't want to sit and wait on that. We want you to come in and do what you need to do. Get this out of here," said Edwards.