Residents rallying in Fifth Ward asking what's being done about the cancer causing contamination

Residents in Fifth Ward, where cancer clusters have been identified, are rallying because they say they don’t want to be forgotten. The group says they appreciate EPA Administrator Michael Regan visiting and hearing their concerns regarding living so close to the Union Pacific Rail Yard and being exposed to cancer-causing chemicals for decades, but they say they want to know what’s being done to help them.

"What do we want? Justice. We will not be ignored. Union Pacific talk with us," the residents chanted across from the rail yard. In the Fifth Ward neighborhood, many of the residents say for too long they've been exposed to harmful chemicals creating what they call an atmosphere for too many deaths. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services says it found elevated counts of cancers in the area known to be associated with the kinds of chemicals found at the Union Pacific site.

RELATED: Houston Fifth Ward residents want answers on cancer cluster

"My youngest sister was lost to cancer, my brother. I have two brothers that were lost to cancer, my father. Nobody deserves this." says Fifth Ward resident Dianne Sutton Osborne.   

"I have lost a husband. I have lost a brother. I have lost a mother, a father-in-law, uncles," adds resident Delores Peterson. 

"Enough is enough, and you will not shut us up. We will not be silenced. This has gone on too long. They have killed off enough of our people. They have messed over our residents. My property is not worth five cents." says resident Sandra Edwards. 

"Quite frankly for many of those people, it’s a life or death issue. I get it. I understand it, and we’re going to be right there fighting alongside them," says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner who says the good news is the residents now have EPA Administrator Michael Regan as an advocate. 

RELATED: Residents happy to see EPA tackle Fifth Ward cancer cluster after decades of death, pollution

After touring Fifth Ward in November, Regan made several changes, including implementing unannounced inspections at suspected non-compliant facilities and launched a pollution accountability team. 

"He literally talked to us probably longer than Union Pacific has ever spoken to us and that’s something to really think about," says Fifth Ward Resident Joetta Stevenson. 

RELATED: 'People have already died,' Houston, residents demand relief from chronic pollution during EPA chief's visit

"The goal now is to do everything we can to push Union Pacific and others to come up with a plan, possibly to move people away from the plume," said Turner.

RELATED: Houston mayor asks Union Pacific to help pay for families to move away from cancer cluster area

Union Pacific sent FOX 26 the following statement:

"Union Pacific has followed permitting and remediation requirements from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) since acquiring the site in 1997. We've consistently met with many stakeholders and are planning meetings with more in the future. Scientists, engineers, and other experts have been conducting environmental studies, assessments, and cleanup work at the site under the supervision of the TCEQ for decades. All the studies, data, and remediation work has been shared with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and is publicly available on our website. We are now seeking a renewal of our permit with TCEQ to continue this important work, and it is our hope that the community and others will support our permit."