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Texas Regulators Ignore "Top Priority" Toxic Site -- Environmental Racism Charged

Austin...Nearly fifteen years of dumping hazardous chemicals at San Antonio's Kelly Air Force Base has taken its toll on the health of residents by poisoning the watertable and now threatens the entire city's supply of drinking water, according to documents released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Texas PEER). Plumes of toxic contamination run beneath more than 20,000 homes in the poorer Hispanic precincts surrounding the airbase.

Contrary to directives from U.S. EPA identifying the base as the state's "top priority" toxic site, the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC), the state's pollution control agency, has yet to take enforcement action or begin a clean-up at Kelly. The state of Texas strongly opposes designating the base a federal Superfund site despite —

* a health survey in the poor, Hispanic neighborhood of North Kelly Gardens shows 91% of adults and 79% of children are suffering from multiple illnesses;

* growing concerns that the toxic plumes are migrating towards the Edwards Aquifer, the source of drinking water for the City of San Antonio; and

* the fact that the Air Force is denying any financial responsibility for off-site contamination and, unless the Air Force is held liable through the Superfund process, local taxpayers may have to shoulder the high costs of massive remediation.

Local citizen groups have filed a civil rights complaint against TRNCC accusing it of "environmental racism" not only for its failure to clean up the area but also because the state is not warning potential home buyers of the contaminated soil and water. Citizens also charge that they have been excluded from decision- making about the future of the base which is scheduled to close in 2001.

"Kelly is typical of the TNRCC's ‘Don't Worry, Be Happy' approach to toxic contamination of poor communities," commented Texas PEER Coordinator Erin Rogers. "The Air Force can skip town secure in the knowledge that, after years of dithering, Texas is not going to start enforcing pollution laws today."

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