City of Houston’s response to illegal dumping to be subject of feds’ environmental justice probe

HOUSTON – The Justice Department announced Friday an environmental justice investigation into the city of Houston’s response to illegal dumping in , according a news release.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery of the Southern District of Texas will host the virtual news conference announced the details of the investigation. Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division also gave remarks regarding the department’s efforts to advance environmental justice.

The investigation will focus on Houston’s operations, policies and practices related to illegal dumping. The investigation, which will be led by the Civil Rights Division, will examine whether the city responds to requests for municipal services, including in response to illegal dumping, in a manner that discriminates against Black and Latino Houston residents in violation of federal civil rights laws, according to a release.

READ: Illegal dumping in Houston: The challenge and who is investigating

Prior to the announcement, the department informed the City of Houston’s mayor’s office and legal department of the investigation’s initiation. Mayor Sylvester Turner has been requested to send documentations and data to be reviewed.

“Illegal dumpsites not only attract rodents, mosquitos and other vermin that pose health risks, but they can also contaminate surface water and impact proper drainage, making areas more susceptible to flooding,” Clarke said. “No one in the United States should be exposed to risk of illness and other serious harm because of ineffective solid waste management or inadequate enforcement programs. We will conduct a fair and thorough investigation of these environmental justice concerns and their impact on Black and Latino communities in the City of Houston.”

“Illegal dumpsites can raise significant concerns regarding public health and safety, property values, and quality of life,” Lowery said said. “We look forward to working with the Civil Rights Division to ensure the City of Houston is in compliance with its federal civil rights obligations.”

The investigation will examine whether the city’s enforcement and solid waste management operations, policies and practices in response to illegal dumping have resulted in discrimination against Black and Latino residents in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), according to the release. Title VI prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance from discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin.

The Civil Rights Division’s Federal Coordination and Compliance Section is conducting the investigation with the support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

The investigation was launched after the Justice Department received a complaint from Lone Star and reviewed the allegations, which launched the formal investigation.

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