HOUSTON — A new report by the State Department of Health and Human Services found another cancer cluster in Houston, this time near the former railroad creosote treatment facility in Kashmere Gardens.
Editor's note: The video above aired on Jan. 21, 2020.
The findings come a year after a cancer cluster was found in the Fifth Ward, which is also near the former treatment facility. That study found higher rates of respiratory cancers – including esophagus, larynx and lung cancers – in the area compared to typical rates.
The study released this month found children in the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens were diagnosed with leukemia at a rate five times greater than the state’s average.
Mayor Sylvester Turner released a statement on the findings:
“The finding of another cancer cluster in the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens area highlights the significant adverse health impacts that have plagued areas of our city for decades. Even more distressing, this cluster involves children sickened with leukemia at nearly five times the expected rate.
“Late last year, the city’s first-ever cancer cluster was identified in the same area with greater-than-expected incidences of adult cancers of the lung, esophagus, and throat. Both cancer clusters are near legacy creosote contamination at a facility now owned by Union Pacific.
“Without the grassroots efforts of the community and the relentless support of the Houston Health Department, this cancer analysis may have never been conducted, and the community may have continued to suffer in silence.
“It is our responsibility to protect the interests of the families and children living in the immediate area. All Houstonians have the right to a safe and healthy environment no matter where they live.
The City of Houston will aggressively explore all possible avenues to bring meaningful relief to this suffering community.
"I am requesting that Union Pacific help to relocate affected residents and create a buffer between contaminated areas and homes in the neighborhood. The EPA and TCEQ must declare the area a Super Fund site. Someone needs to be held accountable for the healthcare costs of these families and specifically these children.”
In January 2020, Union Pacific spoke to KHOU 11 after the report finding a cancer cluster in the Fifth Ward was released.
“We’ve been studying the site for 20 years we’ve owned it and it was studied before that," said Brenda Mainwaring, Union Pacific Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs. "And the science and the research shows there’s no pathway for the impacted materials to get to residents.”
The state health department’s report did find elevated levels of multiple cancers in the area, but a direct link to creosote, used to preserve railroad ties and telephone poles from rot and pests, was not conclusive.
Union Pacific has also previously warned residents about digging wells.
"From 25 to 66 stories below the soil, there may be some solid creosote down there," Mainwaring said. "It has a potential to get into the groundwater.”
The company said in January 2020 it will continue to engage with the community as renewed interest in its old site shows no sign of slowing down.