'A lost city': Fifth Ward residents running out of patience as EPA announces additional testing

Pooja Lodhia Image
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Fifth Ward cancer cluster: What's being done about contamination
Union Pacific is scheduled to start testing its facility for potential contamination in just a few months. The EPA will oversee the testing and, eventually, sign off on a response plan.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Environmental Protection Agency is announcing additional testing in an area of Houston's Fifth Ward identified as a cancer cluster.

Residents there have been demanding action for more than four years.

"It's like a lost city. There's no life around here. It's just dead," Mary Hutchins said.

Hutchins was born and raised in her Fifth Ward home. Now, she's desperate to leave.

RELATED: Fifth Ward neighbors angry after tests confirm cancer-causing chemicals in soil

"Everybody has been down here. They see what's going on, but there's nothing happening," she said. "So, how long do we stay if we can't afford to leave?"

When Hutchins was growing up, a chemical used to treat rail ties was used at a nearby rail yard now operated by Union Pacific.

The chemical is now known to cause cancer, and testing has shown it's still in the ground in much of Fifth Ward.

Starting in just a few months, Union Pacific is scheduled to start testing its facility for potential contamination.

The EPA will oversee the testing and eventually, sign off on a response plan.

RELATED: All 42 soil samples test positive for cancer-causing chemicals in Fifth Ward, officials say

"I think at first they kind of cared, but now I don't. I think they were trying to get some help down here, but it looks like every time they send somebody down here, they say they're going to do one thing, and it's just so long in between before you hear anything about what's going on. So, it's like we'll all probably be dead or something," Hutchins said.

Hutchins was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year.

Down the street, Barbara Beal has lung cancer.

"They can test all they want. Just let me know. Buy me out," she said. "Test the ground. Have the ground. Use it for your benefit. Honestly, I don't care. I really don't."

SEE ALSO: Report shows contamination in Fifth Ward cancer cluster worse than anyone thought

Next door, Larry Gueary was diagnosed with liver cancer in October, the same month his son died from lung cancer. "I feel like they have forgotten about us," he said. "We're just here. That's how I feel."

"We're hurting down here, and we should be able to have the right to have a decent neighborhood," Hutchins added.

Eyewitness News has reached out to the EPA and Union Pacific for more specifics but hasn't heard back.

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