We are so sorry we couldn’t be live with you all last night! We hope the video recorded updates were helpful, and as always, please feel free to reach out at info@txhea.org with any questions that may have come up.

For those of you who didn’t catch the video recording, you can find it on YouTube here. Or keep reading for a summary of what we discussed!

  1. Health Survey Initiative (1:12)
    1. We are working on gaining a deeper, more complete understanding of the relationship between local public health and our environment. In order to do that, we need to know what types of health concerns you and your family are facing. 
    2. If you haven’t yet, please take a few minutes to fill out the survey today so we can make sure your voice is heard and your family’s needs are accounted for when we meet with the Department of State Health Services at the end of the month.
    3. Thank you to everyone who has filled out the survey so far. We are seeing several cases of autoimmune disease, brain cancer, tumors of the spine, and retinoblastoma in children–heartbreaking diseases that no family should have to suffer through. Knowing what is out there is so important to developing a solution, so thank you for sharing with us.
    4. The survey is now also available in Spanish here.
  1. San Jacinto River Coalition (2:57)
    1. We will be having our San Jacinto River Waste Pits community meeting next week. At that time, we will go into detail regarding what was discussed at last month’s Community Advisory Committee meeting with the EPA.
    2. For now, here is a brief overview of the topics covered at the meeting:
      1. Remedial design updates for both the Northern and Southern impoundments
      2. TxDOT updates regarding the I-10 bridge replacement
      3. San Jacinto River Fleet updates
      4. Discussion about communication between the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers
      5. Community updates
    3. The EPA is going to be hosting a community meeting on June 10th to discuss updates directly with local residents. More information coming soon. The meeting will be virtual, so THEA will be setting up a community viewing station where we can all gather and tune into the meeting together. Details about location will be provided once established.
    4. The final design report for the Northern impoundment that we were expecting this summer has now been pushed back and will likely not be released until 2022. We know this is disappointing news, and we encourage you to join us at the EPA community meeting to press the agency for an expedient process and an explanation as to why this decision was made.
  1. Jones Road Groundwater Plume Superfund Site (6:56)
    1. We are hosting a door-to-door campaign on May 8th with our partners at UTMB and Baylor College of Medicine. We will be visiting the homes above the plume, over half of which are still using groundwater wells for their water supply.
    2. We will be speaking to local residents about their health concerns and providing them information about the well drilling restriction and how they can opt for an alternative water supply.
    3. If you are interested in volunteering to help us with this event, send an email to our team member Kristine at ksingleton@txhea.org or call our office at 281-315-5242.
    4. We will be meeting with our partners at UTMB and Baylor College of Medicine later this month to hear updates on inquiries they’ve been making into the types of health data they have access to they may be helpful to our work. As medical institutions, they have access to information regarding public health that those of us in the general public do not. So we are meeting with them to see if they have been able to uncover any data that may help us build up our understanding of the relationship between public health and our local environment. We will provide updates to everyone after the meeting.
  1. Greater Fifth Ward (9:04)
    1. Back in November of 2020, we sent a letter to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) asking them to look into more cancer types in the Greater Fifth Ward community and to conduct a birth defect investigation.
    2. They responded last month (five months later) saying they already conducted a birth defect investigation which was published back in March of 2020. We have two major issues with this:
      1. There has been very poor communication regarding the birth defect investigation. They took about half a year to respond to us, and every elected official, community group, and agency that we checked with was not aware that this report had been published. Timely, clear, and detailed communication is important to solving big problems, so we will be raising our concerns over communication with DSHS in our next contact with them.
      2. The report uses inconsistent methodology and only investigated seven types of birth defects. Typically when investigating rates of diseases or birth defects, rates in the area of study will be compared with rates in the state overall. This study, however, compared rates in the area of study (Fifth Ward/Kashmere Gardens) to rates in Harris County. This inconsistency makes it difficult to draw meaningful conclusions and insights about the relative rates of birth defects in the area of concern.
    3. What we can see from the study, however, is that of the seven birth defects assessed, six of them show higher prevalence in Fifth Ward than in Harris County overall. Particularly noteworthy are Gastroschisis, which had a prevalence of 8.14 (per 10,000) compared to 4.16 in Harris County, and Down’s Syndrome, which had a prevalence of 17.63 compared to 12.23 in Harris County. This data supports the personal accounts we have heard from local community members. 
    4. We appreciate that the state conducted this assessment, but we will be asking them for some additional follow-up information.
    5. In some positive news, DSHS has acknowledged the results from the soil vapor sampling conducted by the City of Houston, agreeing that they demonstrate a potential exposure pathway. They stated that they will be conducting an exposure health assessment to analyze whether community members are coming into contact with contaminants and if so if this could be causing health impacts. 
  1. What’s Next for THEA? (20:49)
    1. Our team is currently researching birth defects associated with Creosote exposure. Once we have a solid understanding of this, we will respond to DSHS asking for them to expand their assessment to include more types of birth defects and to align their methodology with the standard procedure of comparing results in the area of study to the state overall.
    2. Our health survey initiative is moving full steam ahead. Please help us out by filling it out before the end of the month!
    3. The San Jacinto River Waste Pits EPA community meeting is set for June 10th. THEA will be hosting a viewing station, and we will provide details on that as soon as they are established.
    4. Much of THEA’s communication this summer will come in the form of an email. As Jackie prepares for maternity leave, she and the team are adjusting to make sure that all of THEA’s efforts can move ahead.