An organization recognized for helping more than 200 families start new lives in brand new homes is being accused of being a bad neighbor.
Local 2 Investigates looked into the issue after receiving an email message from a concerned viewer about Habitat for Humanity Northwest Harris County. Part of the note is displayed below: “
“I can only be sure of one thing it's illegal to ignore code and EPA standards for handling and storage of hazardous waste… If you polled the neighborhood around Restoreyou would get a unbiased dislike for the proceedings there.”
'Restore' is Habitat for Humanity's Resale Store. Behind the location at 13350 Jones Road, Local 2’s cameras captured a leaking pile of paints, roofing chemicals and flooring solvents.
Some residents of the bordering Norchester subdivision near Jones Road and Grant Road in northwest Harris County worried that children could be attracted to the mess.
Runoff from the leaking containers could also be a threat to the water system, Bob Allen, director of Harris County Pollution control, said.
"That is a concern,” said Allen. “This is something that needs to be addressed.”
Most of the cans have fading but dire warning labels about storage and disposal.
"They've got to clean it up," said one neighbor who asked to remain anonymous.
Habitat for Humanity Northwest Harris County's executive director, Soleil Watt, promised quick action in rectifying the problem, but said the material was illegally dumped behind the store under the guise of being a donation.
"I think it is our responsibility to rectify the situation but we certainly can't control when people are dumping things after hours and in the middle of the night," Watt said.
The mess was cleaned up within two days of Local 2 Investigates’ inquiry.
The chemicals were dropped off at Harris County's Hahl Road Facility.
Watt admitted similar incidents had happened in the past, although "not often."
Habitat for Humanity Northwest Harris County has since posted signage warning illegal dumpers and "beefed up security,” Watt said.
Allen said Habitat for Humanity's cleanup of the mess has settled the matter, at least for now. In similar cases, Harris County Pollution Control has fined either the person who dumps the material, or the owner of the property. No fines will be issued in this case
Habitat for Humanity Northwest Harris County is only loosely affiliated with other Habitat for Humanity organizations. For the most part, each individual chapter maintains and files a separate 501c3 tax exemption status.