HOUSTON - Houston and Harris County officials have planned to take Union Pacific to court. For years, neighbors in a Fifth Ward neighborhood have complained about toxic chemicals they say are making their families sick.
Longtime residents in the Kashmere Gardens area say this is the best news they’ve heard in a while.
Sandra Edwards is a lifetime Fifth Ward resident who’s been fighting for a resolution to a deadly problem. She and other residents say creosote, a toxic chemical that’s been exposed on a nearby rail yard and treatment site for years, has made her family and neighbors sick. So many people have died from various cancers.
"I'm feeling hopeful," says Edwards. "I’m feeling something is going to happen now. We have been lashing out for so long."
Her neighbor, Diane Osborne, has a mass on her kidney. Many of her family members, including her parents and siblings, have died from or have been diagnosed with various cancers.
"It's not only my family, but it's everybody that have lived in this neighborhood," says Osborne. "I have a sister now with bone cancer. She can't get around."
In an announcement made Tuesday, Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee says residents in Fifth Ward, a historically Black and underserved community, have dealt with negative health effects from hazardous waste and chemicals for decades.
"Both children and adults in the area are subject to higher rates of certain types of cancers, and it’s time that we ensure they have the clean air and water they deserve," says Menefee.
A Union Pacific spokesperson issued a statement in regards to the recent intent to sue announcement:
"Union Pacific sympathizes with residents who are dealing with medical issues and those with health concerns. We have met with the community many times over the years and will continue to engage residents, as well as the City of Houston and Harris County, as our remediation work at the site continues. Since acquiring the site in 1997, our focus has been, and continues to be, on protecting the environment and the health and safety of the public. The extensive studies conducted at the site have consistently shown there is no creosote exposure pathway to residents."
Menefee says Union Pacific has 90 days to respond to their intent announcement.