HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Mayor Sylvester Turner and the nation's top environmental official toured a Houston neighborhood involved in a health crisis ABC13 has been reporting on for years.
A cancer cluster tied to the Union Pacific Railroad in the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens has left the community feeling forgotten after city leaders have failed to take action on several issues, including tainted groundwater and contaminated air.
Turner and Michael Regan, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, went on what they called a "Journey to Justice" to evaluate the area and speak with residents who have been impacted.
Regan was also there to promote the president's new infrastructure law.
"This is a moment in time where state, federal, and local government can unite, so we can be sure that these millions of dollars that the president has made available will be used in the right way," he said.
Witness video obtained by ABC13 in September captured vapor pouring out of the top of a Union Pacific Railroad car.
There are also reports to back up some of the residents' concerns.
Back in 2019, a state report showed the city's first cancer cluster that many believe is due to creosote contamination from the railyard. Early this year, the state came back with another report, saying they found higher than normal leukemia rates in children.
"We're expendable," said resident Doris Brown. "Take our tax money, but you don't put anything back into our neighborhoods."
In March 2020, the Texas Department of State Health Services published a study on birth defects in children living near the railyard.
Kashmere Gardens' resident Nakia Osbourne said his son was one of them. His son was born with autism and severe intellectual disabilities. He died in 2014 at the age of 13 from a burn accident.
ABC13 reached out to Union Pacific about the birth defects study, but we haven't yet received a statement.
This tour marks the first time Turner physically went to the area to look at the problem himself.
In January of 2021, he requested that "Union Pacific help to relocate affected residents and create a buffer between contaminated areas and homes in the neighborhood."
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