5th Ward residents rejoice over county, city plans to sue Union Pacific

Here's what we know

HOUSTON – Tuesday’s announcement that both Harris County and the city of Houston each plan to pursue legal action against Union Pacific Railroad over long-standing contamination in Houston’s Fifth Ward was welcome news among residents who have long fought for accountability.

“It’s that giant step we’ve been waiting on and it’s finally happening, so I’m proud and I’m happy to be a part of it,” said community organizer Sandra Edwards.

The Texas Department of State Health Services found significant increases in cancer rates around the UP railyard.

“Residents of the 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. Union Pacific should be held accountable for the harm this facility has caused to its neighbors.” said Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee.

Menefee told KPRC 2 News the Notices of Intent to Sue will be sent in the coming weeks to UP, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Agency, the Attorney General of the United States, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The notice will state that the City of Houston and Harris County will file a citizen suit in federal court seeking injunctive relief against UP to address its dangerous storage and disposal of hazardous waste at the UP facility.

Union Pacific issued the following statement to KPRC 2 News:

“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.

Here is our website for additional information.”

About the Author:

Emmy-winning journalist, native Houstonian, reader, dancer, yogi.