US DOJ settles probe of illegal dumping in Houston’s minority neighborhoods

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice secured a settlement in its environmental justice investigation into Houston’s response to illegal dumping in Black and Latino neighborhoods, the department and the city of Houston said separately on Tuesday.

The agreement builds on a plan to develop improved waste management services for residents across Houston and address illegal dumping and its negative impacts on the health, safety and quality of life of residents.

In March this year, Houston announced its One Clean Houston initiative that focused on “rapid cleanup, better enforcement and prevention and education.”

The settlement agreement between the Justice Department and Houston establishes a three-year period of federal monitoring; data reporting obligations; enhanced community outreach with impacted neighborhoods; consideration of additional actions to combat commercial sources of illegal dumping; and a federal civil rights training program for specified city employees, the Justice Department said in a statement.

In July last year, the Justice Department opened the investigation into whether Houston’s response to illegal dumping discriminated against Black and Latino communities, citing environmental and health risks.

The investigation was part of a broader effort by the administration of President Joe Biden to prioritize environmental justice in its policymaking.

“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 U.S. Attorney Alamdar Hamdani for the Southern District of Texas.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Marguerita Choy)