ABOVE: Houston mayor Sylvester Turner reads his official objection of granting Union Pacific a new permit regarding the creosote contamination into the record and local, state and federal elected officials listen on the front row of the audience during a meeting put on by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, held at the DeLUXE Theater Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Houston, TX.
The City of Houston, Harris County, and nonprofit Bayou City Initiative have started negotiations with Union Pacific related to its remediation plan for the creosote contamination at the Houston Wood Preserving Works Site (HWPW) impacting the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens neighborhoods.
As a sign of the parties’ intent to continue negotiations to find a workable solution, Union Pacific, the city, the county, and Bayou City Initiative will jointly request that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) place a temporary hold on processing Union Pacific’s proposed remediation plan.
“I am hopeful this pause will lead to a positive outcome for the people living in the Kashmere Gardens community,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “It must recognize their past suffering, their present condition and offer a better future.”
Union Pacific proposed its remediation plan as part of its application to the TCEQ to amend its permit for HWPW. If the TCEQ grants the temporary hold, the parties will continue to negotiate changes to the proposed remediation.
“I’m glad steps are being taken to properly address cleaning up the creosote contamination in Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens,” said Harris County Attorney Christian D Menefee. “Our goal as public officials is a remediation plan that makes life safe for the folks who live and work in these neighborhoods as quickly as possible. We’ll continue to use every tool we have to make that happen.”
Last month, Bayou City Initiative, the city, and the county notified Union Pacific of their intent to file a lawsuit under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
The recent announcement does not resolve that potential litigation, nor does it resolve any lawsuits filed by individual community members against Union Pacific. Instead, the City of Houston and Harris County intend to continue negotiations with Union Pacific and will take whatever action is necessary to ensure safe remediation of these areas.