HOUSTON The Justice Department and Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Tuesday that they have secured a settlement agreement in its environmental justice investigation into the city’s response to illegal dumping in Black and Latino neighborhoods.
The agreement builds on the city’s recently announced One Clean Houston initiative, which is a comprehensive plan to address pervasive illegal dumping and its negative impacts on the health, safety and quality of life of Houston residents.
“I’d like to thank the community for saying, stop and for their direct involvement,” Mayor Turner said at a press conference announcing the deal. We will not solve this problem without the community stepping up to dispose of waste properly.
The agreement marks the city’s cooperation with the DOJ as it implements new measures to combat illegal dumping and develops better waste management services for Houston residents. In March, Turner announced $18 million over the next two years to help clean up illegal landfills.
In addition to confirming the city’s commitment to One Clean Houston, the agreement establishes a three-year period of the following:
Data reporting obligations
Increased community outreach with affected neighborhoods, including engagement with residents with limited English proficiency
Considering further action to combat commercial sources of illegal dumping and ease restrictions on residents seeking to use waste dumps, and
Federal civil rights training program for selected city employees.
Illegal dumping in Houston: the challenge and who investigates
Houston’s illegal landfills have contaminated water and soil, attracted pests and created blight in historically underserved neighborhoods across the city, said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. I appreciate Mayor Turner’s leadership in addressing these concerns and his determination to develop One Clean Houston. This agreement will ensure Houston fully addresses chronic illegal dumping, provides access to adequate waste management services, and improves the quality of life in communities of color. The Justice Department will continue to advance environmental justice and ensure that people of color across our nation live in safe, clean and healthy communities.
In July 2022, the Justice Department launched a 10-month investigation after receiving a complaint filed on behalf of residents that the city discriminated against Black and Latino residents of the Trinity/Houston Gardens neighborhood of northeast Houston, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Title VI prohibits recipients of federal funds from discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin in their federally funded programs and activities, the release said.
The department’s investigation focused on the city’s efforts to address illegal dumping, a persistent problem that reportedly occurs most in Black and Latino neighborhoods.
No one should have to live next to discarded tires, bags of trash, rotting carcasses, infected soils and contaminated groundwater, all caused by illegal dumping, said US Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani for the Southern District of Texas. For too long now, Houston’s underprivileged and low-income communities have had to bear the health burdens of inaction and the misdeeds of others. My hope is that this resolution is an important step in righting these wrongs.
The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division said addressing discriminatory environmental and health impacts is a top priority. Tuesday’s announcement marks the second environmental justice settlement under the federal civil rights statutes, the DOJ said.
Anyone who believes their civil rights have been violated or has environmental justice concerns can file a complaint at www.civilrights.justice.gov/report/.
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