City of Houston and Harris Co. file notice of intent to sue over Fifth Ward contamination

Courtney Carpenter Image
Thursday, July 28, 2022
Houston city leaders give notice of intent to sue Union Pacific
A significant step has been taken in the multi-year drama involving Union Pacific and a Fifth Ward neighborhood that has been battling multiple environmental and health issues with a nearby rail yard.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- On Wednesday, Houston, Harris County, and a citizen's group called Bayou City Initiative came together to say they have given Union Pacific a 90-day notice of their intent to sue as they seek environmental justice for Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens residents.

This is a story ABC13 has been covering for years. It was back in 2019 when the contaminated area around the Union Pacific rail yard along Liberty Road was named a cancer cluster.

Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens residents have been trying to get help for years as studies have shown an increased number of people with cancers that are believed to be because of chemicals found in the area.

So far, local leaders say their efforts to get a resolution from Union Pacific have not been successful.

"To be clear, the city, my office, we have tried to discuss with Union Pacific to reach a resolution. We have tried time and time again. Despite all of these things, right now, we are absolutely nowhere," Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said.

By law, the city, county, and Bayou City Initiative had to deliver this 90-day notice of intent to sue before they could file a lawsuit.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner made it clear during the announcement that they want Union Pacific to know they are not backing down until there is justice.

"We want UP to hear us very clearly. If UP will not make truly meaningful changes to address the pollution without lawsuits by the city, the county, and the community, then we will seek justice at the courthouse," Turner said.

This action is a welcome relief for many people who live in Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens and have been pushing to get answers and help for years.

"We lost too many people. Too many people and too many families. It's the families themselves - cancer just going all around. It's hard to accept that, and nobody's doing anything, and now something is fixing to be done, I am grateful," longtime Fifth Ward resident Sandra Edwards said.

City and county leaders say they are open to conversation with Union Pacific and hope they can negotiate a solution for the people who have been dealing with this for so long before it has to make its way through the court system.

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