Texas has long been home to oil refineries, manufacturing plants, and landfills. But what happens when these facilities close? Spill a harmful chemical? Or don’t follow the best environmental and safety practices?
That’s the question the Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund looked into with their new report, “Missing the Mark: How Texas Pollution Cleanup Benchmarks Fail to Protect Human Health and the Environment.”
Not only did the report find that Texas has at least 5,533 of these types of polluted sites, but that the state’s benchmarks for determining which sites need to be cleaned up (and by how much) are relatively low, especially when to compared to other neighboring states.
In fact, our standards are so low, that “we tolerate pollution concentrations on land designated for residential uses that Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi wouldn’t even restrict to industrial uses,” explained the report.
So why are these pollutants such a big concern? For starters, many of them are carcinogens that can leak into the soil or water supply, especially if homes are built on or near a former landfill, manufacturing plant, etc. As the report explains, the risks of these pollutants spreading are then only amplified in times of natural disaster, like when Hurricane Harvey flooded much of the Houston area.
Okay, so the report has been published… what comes next? Now that they have the data, Texas Campaign for the Environment plans on launching a campaign during the next Texas legislative session (which begins in 2019) to pass a law that will raise our state’s pollution benchmark standards. You can learn more about their advocacy efforts here.
Want to learn more about the impact of pollution in Texas? Watch our video interview with one of the report’s authors below: