Stinky mystery: Human waste being dumped in Oak Forest neighborhood

By Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter

HOUSTON - Neighbors said they're fed up with mounds of human waste piling up on the street in their Houston neighborhood.

What they think is happening

They don’t believe it has anything to do with the sewage system, rather, they suspect a neighbor is deliberately dropping it.

People on Althea Drive in Oak Forest said it’s been going on for years.

What residents are saying

They say the problem started in 2017.

"My initial reaction was, ‘It can't be what I think it is,” said Tony Zamarripa who moved in with his family in 2016.

He said in 2017 they noticed a strong odor.

“At one point, we walked across the street we noticed what appeared to be a large splash pattern over the street what appeared to be urine and fecal matter,” Zamarripa said. “Initially, we thought it could be animal feces, but actually it was much larger and didn’t smell like anything that would come from an animal.”

The dumping on the street continued to for several months.

“Our concern was really the fact that a lot of the bacteria with the rain and the mositure and the humidity appeared to be washing down to the rest of the street,” Zamarripa said. “Obviously there’s a lot of kids playing in the neighborhood and the yard.”

He said neighbors told him it was a situation that happened for years, so he decided to reach out.  

He said they reached out to the city of Houston, 311 and their homeowners association.

The problem stopped for about a year, but it restarted last week on June 15 and June 29, according to neighbors. Zamarripa’s theory is someone is dumping the feces and urine to prevent people from parking in front of a house.  

“In a way it appears to be done to prevent people from parking in front of his house or anywhere near it,” Zamarripa said. 

He said his landscaper once parked in front of the home where the waste was found.

“He was approached by an individual, an individual we believe lives in the home, and was accosted and told not to park any where near the property,” Zamarripa said.

The only way the city can take action is if they catch the individual in the act, or have concrete evidence.

“At this point you get the most expensive infrared camera you can afford  and you mount it and you hope you catch him in the act,” Zamarripa said.

What is the city doing?

The Houston Health Department said it’s been aware of the complaints since 2017.

They could give the person responsible for dumping the human waste a citation, but the city said it has to catch the person in the act.

Profirio Villarreal, a spokesperson for the Houston Health Department said inspectors have randomly, without warning, went out to check the home to issue a citation.

“We were never able to catch that person red-handed in doing that,” said Villarreal who explained that’s the only way they could issue a citation. “We’re going to make this top priority, just like we did in 2017. We’re going to keep going doing random checks and we’re going to work with the community again."

With the waste ending up on the street again as of last week, the Health Department said it has gone back to the neighborhood. Neighbors said the problem started up again on June 15 and happened again June 29.

Villarreal said the Health Department understands neighbors' frustration.

Health hazard

Villarreal said the waste is a health hazard.

“We don’t want that in the public right of way," Villarreal said. “We don’t want that to end up in the storm drains."

City's response

Houston Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen issued this statement in regards to the issue:

“I’m sad to hear that this ongoing health issue with my constituent has resurfaced again. My office and the Houston Health Department had been first made aware of the situation several years ago, and I know the department had worked with the constituent in the past to resolve the issue, but the behavior seems to have unfortunately re-started. There is clearly both a sanitary health issue and a mental health issue happening, and the department has assured me that they are giving the case top priority. Their inspectors will be servicing the case as soon as possible, even after normal business hours, to increase the chances of interceding with the person in the act so that we can resolve this issue with sensitivity and effectiveness.”

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