The City of Houston and Harris County intend to sue Union Pacific over creosote contamination at Kashmere Gardens and Fifth Ward

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – It may be the most significant step yet for a community in the fight for their lives. The City of Houston and Harris County are planning legal action against Union Pacific over creosote contamination in Kashmere Gardens and Fifth Ward.

Creosote is an oily liquid made up of hundreds of chemicals that can cause lung and skin problems or even cancer.

SEE ALSO: Lawsuit lashes out at Union Pacific after cancer-causing chemicals found in Fifth Ward

“They won’t keep coming back here and disturbing us. They will not come here and keep killing us. They will not come here and keep poisoning us,” said resident Sandra Edwards.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, creosote, a chemical once used to make railroad ties at the rail yard, seeped into nearby soil and groundwater, forming a cloud covering more than a hundred homes. Creosote is a carcinogen, and according to state data, this area at Liberty Road and Lavender Street has a higher-than-average rate of cancer.

“If this was River Oaks, West University Place, this wouldn’t happen. These people would have been bought out and settled with their families wherever they want. Live in peace. Enjoy life,” resident Barbara Beel said.

The City of Houston and Harris County have partnered to send letters of intent to the lawsuit to UP, the US EPA Administrator, the United States Attorney General and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. After approximately 90 days, if approved, the city and county will file a civil complaint in federal court seeking an injunction against UP to address the “hazardous storage and disposal of hazardous waste at the UP facility.”

SEE ALSO: Fifth Circuit residents call for EPA action on cancer cluster

“We know they will fight. But, you know what? We also. We won’t stop fighting. We will not stop trying to protect people. We won’t stop calling you when people die in this community,” said Joetta Stevenson, president of the Fifth Ward Super Neighborhood Council.

Union Pacific issued the following statement:

“Union Pacific sympathizes with residents addressing medical issues and health issues. We have met with the community many times over the years and will continue to engage with the federal and state governments and the city of Houston and Harris County as our site remediation work continues. 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 demonstrated that there is no creosote exposure pathway for residents.”

SEE ALSO: Fifth Ward residents file grievances against Union Pacific in fight for environmental justice

When ABC13 asked about the studies UP was referring to, they sent us this website: The Former Houston Wood Preserving Works Site – Houston Wood Preserving Works Site. The latest assessments were conducted in 2020 and claim chemical levels are low enough not to be harmful.

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said they are committed to the long term that UP will right all of their mistakes, whether they admit them or not.

“Here at local government, Harris County, Houston. We will not stand idly by while people die and deal with health problems. We will hold these companies accountable and do our best, and even if we can’t, we will fight. We’re not going down without a fight,” Menefee said.

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https://abc13.com/houston-harris-county-lawsuit-against-union-pacific-creosote-contamination/12025543/ The City of Houston and Harris County intend to sue Union Pacific over creosote contamination at Kashmere Gardens and Fifth Ward

Dais Johnston

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