The state’s evaluation underscores the need for more testing before relocating people in the Fifth Ward
OMAHA, Neb., Aug. 30, 2023 – The Texas Department of State Health Services found no cancer or other health concerns linked to the presence of chemicals, including dioxins, detected in the city’s soil data taken near the former Houston Wood Preserving Works (HWPW) site. The state submitted its findings to the Houston Health Department in January 2023, but the information was not shared with the community. Union Pacific has been partnering with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine next steps in testing and has already completed extensive remediation work at the former HWPW site.
The city sampled soil taken from areas surrounding the former HWPW site and released its findings nearly one year ago. The state health department performed an in-depth analysis of the soil sample data at the request of the Houston Health Department. This is the same soil data cited by the city in expressing dioxin fears and later pursuing a relocation effort.
The state’s review underscores the limitations of the city’s study. Union Pacific cares about the community and remains committed to performing more thorough soil sampling and completing a site-specific risk assessment study to determine the path forward.
The state conducted the review at the request of Dr. Loren Hopkins, chief environmental science officer for the Houston Health Department. Dr. Hopkins was notified of the state’s findings and recommendations in a letter dated Jan. 30, 2023, approximately four months after she raised concerns about dioxin in the area and six months before the city announced its intent to relocate residents based on the city’s soil sampling results.
“Union Pacific is disappointed the Houston Health Department did not share the state’s findings and recommendations with the public,” said Toni Harrison, Union Pacific spokesperson. “Sharing complete information is absolutely essential for residents, especially since they are being offered an opportunity to move from their homes based on the city’s sampling data.”
Under the guidance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Union Pacific is moving forward with a comprehensive soil testing plan to identify the source, extent and health risks associated with any potentially harmful contaminants around the former HWPW site.
“Nothing takes greater precedence than ensuring the safety and well-being of the Fifth Ward and its residents,” said Harrison. “Union Pacific has worked closely with state and federal regulators to safeguard the neighborhood and remediate the former site since acquiring it in a 1997 merger and is committed to finishing the job.”
More information about the former HWPW site and Union Pacific’s remediation efforts is available here.
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Union Pacific Media Contact: Kristen South at 402-544-3435 or [email protected]