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May 11, 2000 - CORPUS CHRISTI'S POLLUTION HORROR STORY

"Refinery Row" Has Become an "Environmental Ghetto"


Austin...The accumulated pollution from more than 16 refineries and other heavy industries in Corpus Christi has fouled the water, poisoned the soil and sickened local residents, according to documents released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (TexasPEER). Despite hundreds of pollution violations, record levels of contamination, and elevated cancer rates and other health problems, little in the way of remedial action has been taken by the state environmental agency.

According to state records, the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC), the pollution control agency, has turned a deaf ear to problems, including:

* One neighborhood, Dona Park, has been virtually condemned due to extraordinarily high levels of lead, cadmium and other heavy metals in the soil. In spite of these conditions, many of the contaminated homes are still occupied.

* TNRCC withheld crucial test results from homeowners and refused to require badly needed cleanup;

* No surveys for arsenic and other toxic contaminants prevalent in the area have been conducted.

The people of Dona Point offer their neighborhood as a litmus test for the effectiveness of Texas environmental policies. "There are people who are sick all over the neighborhood," says one resident. "I would venture to say that one house out of three has someone that's been affected."

"Texas authorities have allowed the Corpus Christi ‘Refinery Row' to become a dangerous environmental ghetto -- the residents call it a ‘Black Thumb' neighborhood," stated Texas PEER Coordinator Erin Rogers. "TNRCC's response to the illnesses, violations and massive contamination in Corpus Christi gives new dimension to the term ‘dereliction of duty'."





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