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Houston’s Greater Fifth Ward is in a cancer cluster. Why don’t all the new residents know?



18 January 2024

In October, Amy Rivas noticed some TV news crews outside her one-bedroom rental in Houston’s Greater Fifth Ward. The next month, she spotted some workers in orange jackets wrapping a corner up with caution tape.

The 19-year-old had just moved into the neighborhood three months prior. But no one had knocked on her door to explain that she had moved into a state-designated cancer cluster, where an unusually high number of residents had been diagnosed with the disease. Or that the Environmental Protection Agency was testing the soil in her neighborhood for contamination. Or that the city had just offered to relocate residents from the area to safer locations throughout Houston.

No one told her that Sharon Elliot – who had lived in the house directly across from Rivas for the past 39 years – was deciding whether to leave. The city of Houston passed an initiative in October to set aside $5 million for the voluntary relocation of residents who live just northeast of the railyard, where 110 houses sit above a contaminated groundwater plume – or groundwater that has been poisoned by hazardous pollutants.

Just south of her, at Union Pacific Railroad’s railyard, a now-defunct wood-preserving site had leached contaminants called creosote through the soil and into the groundwater under the community – leaving thousands of residents potentially exposed to cancerous and non-cancerous diseases for nearly a century.

So when Elliot, 64, saw people across the street moving into a newly constructed fourplex, she wasn’t sure what to think. Why was she getting a ticket out of there, but people like Rivas were just arriving?

Over the past two decades, even as community members increasingly raise alarms about the railyard contamination and cancer cases, a flurry of renting, buying and new construction in Greater Fifth Ward plows forward.

As the city proceeds with its plan to spend millions to relocate residents from the cancer cluster, people are still moving into Greater Fifth Ward, unaware of the risk.

That’s because in Texas, real estate agents and city officials say lax regulations govern what sellers and landlords must disclose to clients and renters. Texas does not require environmental assessments for residential properties, and there is no disclosure required if the land was previously used for industrial purposes – making any disclosure for homes near industry even more difficult to include.

As a result, sellers and real estate agents are left to make an ethical decision on what to tell new buyers, measuring their moral compass against their potential commission.

City officials say there’s little they can do to prevent new construction or stop residents from moving into the cancer cluster. Between 2018 and 2023, Houston’s permitting department approved 1,501 single-family homes, duplexes and apartment complexes in the cancer cluster’s 77020 and the 77026 ZIP code areas, according to city permitting data – despite the state’s own determination that the area had higher-than-normal rates of cancer.

New regulations or additions to the disclosures in home buying contracts and leases are left to the state, where passing bills dealing with real estate and the environment can get bogged down between the political aisles.

Rivas had no clue about any of this until early December. Now, she knows she shouldn’t touch the soil or breathe near it. If she decides to garden – which she said she would not – she needs to clean her shoes before she reenters her home.

Rivas said she would have reconsidered moving to the neighborhood if anyone had told her. Leaning out of her apartment door, she looked at the soil and then to the street and then to her neighbors across the way. She was native to Houston – an eye technician who finally moved into her own place. She didn’t understand why no one told her anything.

“It seems pretty important to tell me this before I signed the lease,” Rivas said. “I guess I’ll have to figure out what to do next.”

For decades, Houston has been the energy capital of the world. Its interdependent relationship with the petrochemical and oil industries has created wealth and economic prosperity, while the city has remained relatively affordable for the fourth-largest urban area in the country.

This boom was not without consequence. Houston is one of the 10 most polluted cities in the country for air quality, and years of industrial growth have left behind chemicals that linger in the city’s sand and clay soil, long after the facilities close down. The city’s dependence on polluting industries has also contributed to keeping Harris County from implementing zoning found in other major cities, leaving neighborhoods from Channelview to Acres Homes vulnerable to nearby pollution by allowing something like a concrete batch plant to be built across the street from a children’s day care center.

Each neighborhood has its own story that leaves behind questions on ethics, real estate and the human legacy of historic industrial pollution. Greater Fifth Ward is just one example.

“I’ve been here for years,” Elliot said. “This is my home. Knowing where to go next is not easy.”


The Texas Legislature has the power to add a disclosure to contracts that alerts buyers and renters that a prospective property is in a cancer cluster.

There is precedent: After Hurricane Harvey, the state Legislature adjusted the seller’s disclosures to better inform buyers when they were purchasing property within the 500-year floodplain.
Private real estate companies and homeowners’ associations can also include cancer cluster disclosures.

The city of Houston has little power to require private companies to disclose information to clients. But the city could pass a moratorium to stop permitting new construction in a cancer cluster.

‘I would have never moved in’

A few blocks from Elliot and the other residents over the plume, Sandra Auzenne has to find her own way out of the community. While Union Pacific’s still-operating train tracks are just a few yards away, her home on Worms Street falls outside the voluntary relocation area identified by the city.

On the street – which runs eight blocks, north from Interstate 10 to the railroad – there is a mix of home types: older homes built generations ago, homes constructed by Habitat for Humanity over the past decade, and homes added in the last few years.

Auzenne moved from Louisiana to Worms Street 16 years ago after, in a matter of hours, her entire life was smashed apart during Hurricane Katrina. Along with thousands of other climate evacuees, she left her home in New Orleans, eventually making her way to Greater Fifth Ward – to the grouping of homes built by Habitat for Humanity.

“I came to Houston with three bags for me, my children and my granddaughter,” she said.

On Halloween night, Auzenne and her son, John, were outside poking around the bushes near the house’s foundation. She is fairly certain the train passing by has caused structural damage to the home, but after hearing about the cancer cluster and nearby contamination, the cracks in the walls and foundation seem like the least of her problems.

Auzenne wrapped her arms across her chest, where she had received a double mastectomy in 2011. Cancer has nearly wiped out her family. Her mother died from breast cancer when Auzenne was 6 years old. Eventually, over time, all six of her sisters died from cancer, too. She is the last one left, and while they all died far from Houston’s cancer cluster, she feels haunted by the specter of cancer in her own home.

“If I had known about all this before, if someone had told me, I would have never moved in here,” Auzenne said.

Two houses down, Christina Vargas heard about the cancer cluster from a neighbor after she had already purchased the house.

At that time, no one, including her real estate agent, told Vargas about the possibility of contamination nearby, or the predominance of certain kinds of cancers among her neighbors. All she knew was she needed a bigger house and a yard for her, her husband and her three young children: Aliza, Ashlyn and Javier Jr. There were very few spots in Houston that she could afford.

Sandra Auzenne came to Houston’s Greater Fifth Ward after evacuating New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina. Now, she must deal with life living across from the train tracks. In a typical week, she picks her granddaughter up from school, goes to doctors’ appointments, and also worries about the crack in her home’s foundation. “If I had known about all this before, if someone had told me, I would have never moved in here,” she said.

Vargas spent around $150,000 for a four-bedroom house on Worms Street in 2021, an amount that is just under the average appraisal value of homes in her 77020 ZIP code.

From 2013 to 2023, the appraisal value for single-family homes in 77020 rose from $56,673 to $177,961, according to the Harris County Appraisal District. Still, the price is well below the city’s 2023 average of about $260,000, according to Zillow.

Although she felt she got a good deal on her home, her feelings have since changed. Like Auzenne, she’s not sure if she would have bought a home in the area had she been aware of the environmental issues.

“It was a really stressful process to look for a house, and we looked for three months,” Vargas said. “The home before was small, and we couldn’t do it anymore.” She needed a good deal, and quickly.

That kind of thinking isn’t unusual for newcomers to the neighborhood.

Randy Huang, a 26-year-old transplant from Los Angeles, said he learned about the cancer cluster while researching the neighborhood online, but that didn’t deter him from signing the contract for his home on Worms Street. His real estate agent did not tell him about the environmental issues, he said, and marketed the property not as Fifth Ward but as “East River,” the new term being used to attract buyers into the gentrifying neighborhood. The price and proximity to downtown seemed appealing.

Now, even though his drinking water comes from the city water system and not the potentially contaminated groundwater, Huang, his partner and even his dog drink bottled water exclusively – out of fear of what’s lurking in the tap water.

The Union Pacific old railyard site is located in Houston’s Greater Fifth Ward. Contaminants from this railyard leached through the soil and polluted the groundwater under the nearby residential area. Under a new city initiative, these residents are able to voluntarily relocate from the area to safer spots throughout Houston. The first residents able to move are in the map area marked Priority 1. Then the next zones eligible to move are marked as Priority 2 (orange) and Priority 3 (yellow).

A precedent of adding disclosure requirements
In Texas, disclosure requirements obligate sellers to inspect and report to the buyer on the condition of the property at the time of sale. That disclosure form appears in every residential home-buying contract, which the seller must complete for the buyer’s awareness, according to the state Property Code.

The form mandates sellers to alert the buyer to different known issues with the property, and specifically asks whether the seller is aware of hazardous or toxic waste, lead-based paint, radon gas or asbestos components at the property. The sellers may also check a box to indicate whether they are aware of “any condition on the property which materially affects the physical health or safety of an individual.”

In recent years, disclosures have been added by the state Legislature, but despite these requirements, sellers only need to reveal information they have knowledge of, said Summer Mandell, director of government and strategic communications at the Texas Real Estate Commission.

Sellers are not required to do additional research about the property that they don’t already have, she said, adding that unless the real estate agent is the seller, agents do not fill out the seller’s disclosure form and do not assist in it either. Many agents do not help because that would increase their liability, she added.

What you can do if you are concerned about the environment where you live, or where you want to move
The Texas disclosure form specifically speaks to the dangers of buying property in a floodplain. But those hazards are only included today after the Texas Legislature passed SB 339, which expanded the current disclosure to include homes located on not just the 100-year floodplain but the 500-year floodplain, or properties in a flood pool, in or near a reservoir, or that flooded in the past.

In 2021, the Legislature also added flood disclosure requirements to rental agreements.

Most recently, the seller’s disclosure form was updated during the 2023 session to require sellers to disclose the type of piping used for gas supply lines. The push came after a 31-year-old died in a Lubbock house explosion in 2012.

“There is no current disclosure for what is known as the cancer cluster, and it would be misleading if I told you that there is a standard disclosure for that now,” said Bill Baldwin, the owner of Boulevard Realty and a member of the board of directors of the Houston Association of Realtors. “That said, the Realtor has the fiduciary and ethical responsibility to describe anything about a particular area.”

But real estate agents selling in Greater Fifth Ward may view their jobs differently.

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Russell Hernandez, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Central who sells property near the railyard, said he had heard about the cancer cluster and the contamination, but didn’t feel suited to give out the information to buyers himself. He said buyers should look up the information.

“They can look it up on the internet or ask the neighbors,” Hernandez said. “I’ve been doing this for 23 years, and you don’t want to get yourself caught. Do you want to say things and then you accidentally mislead and say something you weren’t supposed to say? It’s the same way about crime,” he said, referring to disclosing an area’s crime rates to a prospective buyer.

Real estate agent Antonio Barrera with The All Homes Realty Group said he didn’t know about the cancer cluster or the contamination. He’s been an agent for the past six years.

“I don’t know anything about that, so how would I disclose it?” Barrera said.

Elena Quiroz, an independent real estate agent who represented the seller Huang bought his home from this year, said it really depends on the seller and what they disclose. She pointed out that since Huang bought a new build, a typical seller’s disclosure wasn’t required. If a seller put the state report on the cancer cluster into her hands, she said, then she would feel obligated to say something. But that didn’t happen.

However, some real estate agents have proactively mentioned the cancer cluster in contracts they broker. Gwendelyn Key Willis at Key Realtors incorporates an addendum for renters at the end of leases for properties in Greater Fifth Ward with links to relevant news stories and the following warning:

“The subject rental property is located in an area subject to environmental studies that may affect the health and safety of residents in the Fifth Ward area. Please note the following before entering into a lease agreement for the subject rental property.”

Willis said she found out about the environmental concerns in Greater Fifth Ward when a tenant near the railroad mentioned the contamination and cancer cluster in 2021. She researched it then – finding news articles and city information about the issue.

“I thought that the situation could be potentially serious, you know, like what if someone gets hurt or sick?” she said. “I don’t know all the details on it, but I think at least those living in the area need to at least be aware of it.”

Willis sent some news links to her attorney, and he quickly drafted up a disclosure for those properties in the cancer cluster.

In states such as New Jersey, courts have determined that disclosing previous industrial use can be a legal obligation for sellers. If a seller does not conduct due diligence and disclose past environmental cleanup or contamination, that seller could be liable for fraud due to misrepresentation.

In terms of disclosing a cancer cluster, the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches in Florida released a disclosure in 2010 about a cancer cluster in one of the area communities. The form let people know about the cancer cluster and urged residents to do their own research, including reviewing information published by the county health department.

Lacey Walker, a real estate agent with Nextgen Real Estate Properties in Houston, had no idea about the cancer cluster or the EPA testing and was horrified to learn of it after the Houston Landing informed her. She listed a property for rent just at the border of the relocation area south of the railyard four months ago.

“Where would I have even found that out?” Walker said. “Unless I just Googled, but how would I even know to Google it? I work in First Ward, Third Ward and Fifth Ward, and this kind of stuff scares me. People have the right to know about it.”

“We have the fiduciary responsibility to those we’re representing,” she said.

A buyer could uncover whether a property they are interested in purchasing is in a cancer cluster by obtaining an environmental assessment report, conducted by an environmental specialist. But that report on average costs $2,000 or more, said Baldwin, an amount that would be seen as impossible for many Greater Fifth Ward buyers.

“They didn’t speak English so I pulled out my phone to Google Translate ‘soil contamination’. They had no idea what I was talking about. No one told them.” – Sandra Edwards

Because real estate agents or owners don’t always know or don’t always say, the lack of disclosure has left residents who have lived there longer with a sense of obligation to tell their neighbors.

Sandra Edwards, 57, a neighborhood activist who lives on Lavender Street near Rivas and Elliot, just a block from the railyard, said she had to tell her neighbors in a newly constructed house that the soil could be contaminated.

“They didn’t speak English so I pulled out my phone to Google Translate ‘soil contamination,’” Edwards said. “They had no idea what I was talking about. No one told them.”

Those neighbors have since moved out.

A contaminated history

Contamination of Greater Fifth Ward started over a century ago. From 1899 to 1984, Southern Pacific Transportation Company operated a 125-acre rail yard with a wood-preserving site off of Liberty Road, according to Union Pacific. There, workers used preservative chemicals to treat and weatherize wooden cross-ties, which run between the train tracks and support the railway. The main substance employed during this process is creosote, a thick, oily substance created from the high-temperature distillation of tar from coal.

During this time, Southern Pacific dumped the creosote and other contaminants used for preservation into unlined pits on the site, according to the TCEQ.

Casey Luckett Snyder, EPA project manager for the testing, said the contaminants seeped into the ground, sinking at various depths, mixing with groundwater and moving horizontally through sand and silt into the community north of the site – eventually creating a large groundwater plume of creosote.

The chemicals in the creosote can then produce toxic vapors that can move up through the soil and into the air. “It’s like that wavy vapor that comes off your gas tank,” she said, as she described the creosote groundwater plume contamination. “Those are volatile compounds coming off the gas tank and moving into the air.”

For Joetta Stevenson, a Greater Fifth Ward resident who lives near Auzenne, that new construction and development caused a big shift in the community. She was born and raised there, not too far from Worms Street, but was a frequent visitor to Worms because her grandparents and great-grandparents lived there. Now, Stevenson, 60, lives in her great-grandparents’ little yellow house across the street from where her grandparents used to live, and next to the house her uncle lived in before he died earlier this year. Every time Stevenson thinks back to the 1960s, her eyes light up, recalling a time before she knew about the cancer cluster.

Stevenson is a two-time breast cancer survivor. She said she has no clue if her cancer came from growing up in Greater Fifth Ward. But what she knows is that breast cancer is not in her family at all, and that creosote is cancerous.

“Growing up, I didn’t hear about cancer. People got sick, but you never heard the word cancer,” Stevenson said. “Today, it’s like every five words someone says something about cancer here. Back then, we didn’t connect the dots until the dots were connected for us.”

Despite those memories, Greater Fifth Ward will always be home for Stevenson, and at times she said it’s frustrating when all anyone can talk about is cancer and contamination when discussing the community. The neighborhood had more to offer.

“There’s a lot of pain here,” she said. “But a lot of beauty, too.”

vapor intrusion testing
Toxic chemical vapors can rise up from the contaminated groundwater plume and waft into buildings. The EPA and Union Pacific are testing for this throughout the plume area.

In 1984, after Southern Pacific shut down its wood-preservation operations, TCEQ and prior Texas environmental agencies began overseeing the facility’s closure and remediation. But that only impacted the facility, not the surrounding community.

In 1997, Union Pacific absorbed Southern Pacific, taking over environmental remediation of the site.

In November this year, Union Pacific, as directed by the EPA, began conducting vapor intrusion testing. Since the community does not drink the groundwater below their homes, the only direct pathway for contamination now is these vapors wafting up from the creosote buried underground.

For years, the company did not find that vapor intrusion testing was needed based on data it received from groundwater testing, said Kevin Peterburs, senior manager of site remediation at Union Pacific.

“At that time, all of our groundwater data was below the state’s screening level,” Peterburs said. “That screening concentration would indicate whether you should move forward with a vapor intrusion assessment or you don’t have to.”

However, following a review of 2018 monitoring data, the TCEQ directed Union Pacific to conduct vapor intrusion testing in 2019. The company did not find anything of concern.

That same year, the state also declared Greater Fifth Ward a cancer cluster, and the city conducted its own testing, which found contaminants in the soil. The EPA stepped in to direct the company in testing the vapor and the soil. The two entities signed a contract in spring 2023 to test the area above the plume.

Only now that the EPA is involved did official testing in residents’ backyards begin – nearly 40 years after the site was closed – leaving many residents to wonder what kind of contamination could have been found even just a decade ago.

“The EPA doesn’t have a time machine to go back and test then” – Luckett Snyder

This fact is not lost on Luckett Snyder, who often hears community members at public meetings expressing concerns about what they may have inhaled, drank or touched before this more current, more thorough testing.

“The EPA doesn’t have a time machine to go back and test then,” she said. “Our mission as an agency is to protect human health and the environment. If there’s a threat to public health, human health, we clean it up. We can’t clean something up that happened 45 years ago.”

If Union Pacific and the EPA discover contamination in the community, they will expand their scope to more of Greater Fifth Ward to see how far the damage goes, according to the EPA. If they don’t, no one is sure what will happen. Results are expected to be published in 2024.

Building during a buyout

In July, at a highly attended press conference, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced he would put together a “strike force” to move residents living over the plume to a safer location. The proposal had a price tag of $5 million. The city is offering homeowners up to $250,000 for their home and land to be used on a new, like-for-like house in a different location, while renters will receive $10,000. So far, 10 of the 41 people living there are interested in taking the buyout, according to the city.

Union Pacific representatives said they wouldn’t fund anything until the EPA testing was concluded.

Like other residents in the community, Leisa Glenn, who owns a home on Lavender Street, is confused by Turner’s proposition to move people because at the same time she is seeing new construction on the block. It feels less like relocation or more like displacement, she said. She can see Greater Fifth Ward changing with no end in sight.

“Is the city lying to us? That’s all we want to know: Is this real? Because don’t lie to us,” Glenn said. “We’ve already been beat up by the cancer and everything else in this neighborhood. We’re living in poverty and we’re already beat up. Now you’re going to come and beat us up again?”

John Meyer, EPA Region 6 Superfund Remedial Program Manager, center left, helps resident Leisa Glenn, center right, find out if her home is within the EPA vapor intrusion testing area during a community meeting hosted by the EPA and Union Pacific on Oct. 24 in Houston. (Antranik Tavitian / Houston Landing)
Houston City Councilmember Leticia Plummer spent most of the past summer in tense discussion with Turner’s office over the voluntary relocation. She postponed the vote for the $5 million fund by a week to get more answers about relocation for the residents.

She also has been asking for a moratorium on permitting in Greater Fifth Ward. “I never heard anything from them,” Plummer said. “Now we’re doing a buyout and people are saying, ‘Well, they are building houses next door to me.’”

When it comes to people moving into Greater Fifth Ward, the city of Houston can take a few actions to limit permitting construction or enforce regulations on sellers, real estate agents or private companies.

Arturo Michel, the city’s attorney, said state law does not allow the city to add requirements once a permit application has been submitted. In other words, current development cannot be stopped. As for future restrictions, Michel said the city could pass a permitting moratorium, but he anticipated that the state government would strike it down.

“I think the concern is that Houston has attempted to challenge this kind of thing in the past, where we have attempted to impose environmental restrictions, or additional requirements like a moratorium, and the Texas Supreme Court struck it down,” he said.

In one case, the city of Houston amended its air quality standards to require industrial polluters to register with the city. But the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the ordinance was inconsistent with state enforcement requirements. In essence, the state found that Houston had overstepped its authority.

“But I think a lot of people are going to question whether the state is doing an adequate enough job,” Michel said. “And layering on top of that, you have the Death Star Bill, which really limits cities from the ability to pass its own laws,” he said, referring to House Bill 2127 that passed earlier this year.

Since the city cannot force real estate agents or the private sector to inform their clients that they are moving into a cancer cluster, the city’s permitting office will provide access to information and notice for those applying for a permit, said Michel.

This ultimately leaves the contamination information with only developers and builders. The developers are then met with the choice to either build the property as they wanted, or move on.

“Some of the builders might still build in that area, and there is some construction going on in that area right now,” said Stephen Costello, Houston’s chief recovery officer. “So once we move out the existing residents, we’re going to kind of convince salespeople to sell [the other properties].”

David Caballero, second from right, and his wife Jasmine Ortiz, at center, introduce their two-week-old baby Jose Manuel Caballero Ortiz to Caballero’s grandmother Maria Arcos, at left, on Nov. 6, in Houston. Caballero, who now lives in New Caney, was raised by his grandparents who live right next to the Union Pacific train tracks. (Antranik Tavitian / Houston Landing)
‘The rules should be strengthened’
However, many residents say they have not received any additional information, especially new residents who may not attend community events or know where to access the correct information. Residents who moved in a decade or more ago are just hearing about the railroad issues.

New Orleans native Cordell Dubuclet, 50, heard about the cancer cluster two years ago. He had lived on Worms Street for over a decade and hadn’t heard from any official city source either, but rather from neighbors talking and the nightly TV news.

Carl Portis, another New Orleans transplant, hadn’t learned about the contamination until recently either. Trains rattled across the tracks just one house from his, but the 56-year-old never thought about the health risks the construction of those tracks could have caused.

“The contamination is a part of life here [in Greater Fifth Ward],” said Portis.
“It would’ve been nice if someone had the decency to just stop by and tell us,” he continued. “Like we’re right here, the train’s right there. And no one is going to say a thing.”

The two men haven’t thought much of leaving Worms Street. It had been their home for so long, where they had raised their families. And it would be too pricey to move. In the end, they weren’t that surprised no one mentioned it.

“It is not protected for the consumer the way it is right now,” said state Rep. Peggy Morales Shaw, who represents District 143 in Houston. “You oftentimes do have to force any for-profit entities to disclose information that could potentially reduce their possibility of a sale or to rent.”

The concern with labeling an area, however, is the impact it has on home values, said Baldwin. If there is a disclosure for a cancer cluster or contamination, the cost of a home will plummet and the only people who could afford to live there would be lower-income residents – which again leaves disenfranchised residents in unsafe areas.

State Rep. Gene Wu, who represents Houston’s District 137, said disclosures – while important to include – are just a piece of a larger picture of environmental injustice and contamination.

“I care less about the notice as much as how this place is going to get cleaned up,” said Wu. “How are we going to stop this from happening again? How are we keeping the people safe who can’t move? I mean, it’s like a Band-Aid over a cancer victim.”If the seller’s disclosure form were changed today and kept in place until the cleanup of the area finished, then residents could be informed of the current cancer cluster, testing and any imminent remediation, said Baldwin, the Houston Association of Realtors board member.

“The rules should be strengthened to provide disclosures to consumers of previous use of what knowledge one had of potential hazards, including environmental hazards,” he continued. “I believe the average Realtor would want the seller to be required to disclose more information, and we should probably have more emphasis on environmental inspections.”

In October, Auzenne finally decided to find a new home, hopefully one that is closer to her daughter in northwest Houston. For the last couple years, since she heard about the cancer cluster, she has wondered what is left for her in Greater Fifth Ward. She had made a life by the train, but now after all this time, she didn’t know if she could do it anymore.

Even if the EPA testing comes back without any risk to health, Auzenne feels overwhelmed by it all – and tossed around. For most of her life, it had been a never-ending cycle of moving and mistrust and disease. The harm, she said, was not always apparent. It settled far deeper in her bones.

With no city assistance for relocation, Auzenne is planning on using whatever she makes from the sale of her house – which is nearly paid off – for a down payment on a new home somewhere else in another part of Houston.

She hopes, however, that the new place is safe – because she knows now that in the air, bubbling in the water or deep down in the earth, something contaminated or polluted might lurk. And only years from now, decades perhaps, someone will tell her the truth.


National Minority Quality Forum is a research and educational organization dedicated to ensuring that high-risk racial and ethnic populations and communities receive optimal health care. This nonprofit, nonpartisan organization integrates data and expertise in support of initiatives to eliminate health disparities.

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