Clean up plan in place after cancer cluster identified in 5th Ward Houston

HOUSTON – There’s a renewed sense of hope for families living in two Houston neighborhoods of northeast Houston after a cancer cluster is identified by the state.

State leaders said families in 5th Ward and Kashmere Gardens were exposed to a cancer-causing chemical for decades. The state’s leading environmental agency is now demanding action to ensure those neighborhoods are safe.

What does the deadline mean?

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has given Union Pacific until Aug. 31 to come up with a plan to clean up the Union Pacific Houston Wood Preserving Works Site located at 4910 Liberty Road.

Union Pacific said it requested the deadline because it will provide the necessary time to collect and evaluate data and determine the next steps. The information will be used to assemble the report that Union Pacific will submit to TCEQ.

TCEQ said Union Pacific has addressed some of the soil contamination through capping. It’s requesting additional environmental data and testing from the company so a final clean up plan can be approved for the site.

“Once our agency receives that, we’ll review that and determine if it meets our rules and requirements and at that point, we will put it out for public comment,” said Beth Seaton, director of TCEQ.

What is Union Pacific Saying?

Raquel Espinoza of Union Pacific Railroad released the following written statement:

“We understand the health concerns of those living in this industrial area, and support fair, objective, scientific investigation of this issue. Decades of testing found no scientific evidence of a creosote exposure pathway to residents. We continue monitoring the situation in accordance with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s rules and regulations.”

Union Pacific has posted a webpage regarding the work it is conducting at the site. It can be viewed at https://hwpwinfo.com/.

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