Mayor's Office Press Release
Harris County Attorney and City of Houston Take Action Against Union Pacific
July 5, 2022 -- Harris County Attorney Christian D Menefee and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will each submit Notices of Intent to Sue pursuant to the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act to Union Pacific Railroad (“UP”) in connection with long-standing contamination in Houston’s Fifth Ward from UP’s Houston Wood Preserving Works creosote treatment facility. The Texas Department of State Health Services found significant increases in cancer rates around the UP rail yard.
“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.
Mayor Sylvester Turner stated, “Communities of color disproportionately bear the burden of industrial pollution. The UP facility here is a textbook example. UP can and must take all necessary steps to address the contamination from its dangerous chemicals and the adverse consequences to our residents.”
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.
Houston and Harris County have been working together to urge state and federal authorities to require remediation of creosote contamination in Kashmere Gardens and to develop a comprehensive strategy to address these issues. This legal step is the latest in a series of actions taken to protect the health and property of impacted residents. Recently, Houston-based environmental attorney Jim Blackburn and the non-profit Bayou City Initiative proposed coordinating with the City’s and County’s efforts as they each pursue similar legal action.
"Fifth Ward residents made it clear to us that more must be done to protect their community from the dangerous chemicals lurking beneath their homes," Blackburn said. "I commend our city and county leaders for working with the community to fight for a clean and safe environment."