Fifth Ward activists fear lead still a threat at Superfund site

- Along a fence line in the heart of Fifth Ward you will find pile, upon pile, upon pile of garbage - harmless stuff say residents, compared to what lies embedded in the soil in the 36 acres beyond.

"What we are talking about here primarily is environmental racism," said Rev. James Caldwell, founder of the Coalition of Community Organizations.

Reverend is talking about  lead contamination at the MDI Superfund site. For decades the acreage was home to metal foundries and a chemical plant that went bankrupt and were subsequently abandoned, leaving a toxic legacy that's deeply impacted those who grew up here.

"Every last one of them when that school was located here, having lead in their system is horrible, it's unacceptable," said Joetta Stevenson of the Fifth Ward Super Neighborhood Civic Club.

"Those young men and young women are growing up. They are going to begin having problems as a result of this lead poisoning that has existed in this community," said Caldwell.

The EPA claims the toxic threat is fully contained and in 2005 sold the land to developers who committed to continue the clean-up as part of the deal.  That bargain is still drawing fire from community and environmental activists.

"This site here is not adequately cleaned up with the evaluation process near complete. Once completed will be deleted from the EPA's list of national priorities," said Rosanne Barone of the Texas Campaign for the Environment.

"Can we honestly say that the lead contamination that remains is not a threat to future residents and their children?" asked Bridgette Murray with Achieving Community Tasks Successfully.

The call now is for independent, third party testing - verifiable proof that poison from the past poses no threat to the future.

"We need the City, the County, the State, the Federal government to step up," said Stevenson.

Residents and activists fear budget cuts initiated by the Trump administration will cause the EPA to accelerate clearance of the Suprfund site for redevelopment. Published plans project the construction of 538 new homes if and when the EPA gives the green light.

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