Houston Affordable Housing Project has environmental watchdogs sounding the alarm

A multi-million dollar affordable housing project being constructed at Houston's 800 Middle Street is coming under increasing fire after environmental watchdogs learned the complex is going up literally feet from a former state super fund site and near a lead processing facility.

"I'm concerned about the proximity to industrial facilities and being right across the street from a superfund site. We know these sites are not cleaned up well enough to put people living on top of. If our government puts hundreds of families living in this area, where we know there are high levels of lead, it's going to be on our radar as the next cancer cluster," said Jackie Medcalf, Director of the Texas Health and Environment Alliance.

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And that's not the only potential threat to future residents.

Just northeast of the project, you will find a smokestack, the last remnant of the City's Old Velasco trash incinerator plant, which generated untold tons of toxic ash, nearly all of it buried in landfills near the Housing Authority's new project.

For months, resident Tony Padua photographed project excavation, recording images of compacted garbage ash extending a dozen or more feet below the site.

"This site which they claimed was safe for housing, obviously it's not, because they uncovered all this black ash. There's no clay cap here and there's no clay cap at the bank," said Padua.

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Padua's referring to the banks of Buffalo Bayou where project opponent Alan Atkinson built a hike and bike trail years ago.

In an alarming display of "show-and-tell", Atkinson pierced the soil to reveal hard to deny evidence of incinerated trash-ash, including burned glass and rubber which survived the heat.

"You can see continuous ash if you know what to look for. Here undisturbed, that's broken glass you see the discoloration, that's iron and more glass. You can see that it's just packed full of glass, that's ash. The reason it's all broken is that these were all the glass bottles that were in the trash that was burned," said Atkinson.

On this day and in years of litigation against the project, Atkinson has made a fundamental claim.

"It's not just rules, it's federal law. You cannot use $13 million of housing dollars, dedicated for low income housing, and use it to buy contaminated ash landfills," said Atkinson.

The Houston Housing Authority is standing by the safety of its project.

"The Houston Housing Authority (HHA) is committed to providing a safe and secure living environment for all our communities, and we will continue to work diligently to ensure their well-being. We have been cleared by InControl Technologies, under the supervision of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) who conducted tests earlier this year and determined our site as non-hazardous.  HHA is committed to improving the lives of Houston residents by providing a safe, affordable, quality environment. Any implication otherwise is contradictory to the work we do every day to serve some of the most vulnerable in our community," said an HHA spokesperson in a statement received by FOX 26.