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Cancer deaths in poor Houston neighborhood raises questions about pollution from abandoned chemical facility

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(NaturalNews) Residents in southeast Houston are accusing the city of "environmental racism" following their refusal to clean up an abandoned cleaning facility that some residents say is affecting their health.

Custom Environmental Services (CES) filed bankruptcy and closed its doors in 2010 after the facility violated safety regulations and was ordered to pay millions in compensation to nearby residents.

The company specialized in emergency response, environmental abatement and industrial vacuum services in order to "keep our environment clean,
healthy, and safe."

According to their website, CES had a "proven track record and reputation" for environmental remediation projects and emergency response situations; however, the company has left behind an 8-acre dilapidated facility that's polluting the environment.

During its operation, CES cleaned tanker trucks for oil refineries and chemical plants along the Houston Ship Channel. It also recycled oil and packaged waste for disposal.

A report by the Houston Chronicle states that a heavy downpour a few weeks ago washed stagnant water polluted with chemicals into residents' streets and yards.

"The wastewater left a brown stain on my street," said Roselyn Johnson. "That wastewater smelled horrible."

For years, a pool of "goldish yellow-looking" goo has been sitting in a lagoon of algae-covered water emitting a pungent chemical smell, with nothing but grass and a cyclone fence separating it from an elementary school.

Dozens of South Park neighborhood residents living near the defunct chemical plant organized protests at the beginning of the month with the help of the Texas Organizing Project. Shortness of breath, nosebleeds, headaches and potentially linked cases of cancer were among the protestor's complaints.

Protestors wore surgical masks and carried signs that read, "We have a family and kids; don't dump on us," and "Clean it up now."

Some parents expressed reluctance in allowing their children to play outside, concerned that they could be exposed to the toxic waste in the streets.

"Something like this would not happen in affluent areas like River Oaks," said Mary Moreno, a spokeswoman for the Texas Organizing Project that's helping voices in the low-income neighbor be heard.

"This is a classic case of environmental racism"

The company that once raked in $8 million a year is now under the control of a bankruptcy trustee that promises to "address whether any contaminants still linger there," according to the Chronicle.

"They also promised that they were going to clean it up. But I still smell it all the time," said Ray Whitmire, who shares a fence with the facility. Whitmire wonders if the chemical leak could've caused the cancer that several of his neighbors have succumbed to over the last few years.

Whitmore received $5,000 about two and a half years ago after he joined a class-action lawsuit against the chemical plant.

"I don't feel we should have to inhale this stuff," said Bobby Wyatt, another resident living near the site.

"It smells so bad, it makes me sick," said Edgar Thomas, 34, who admitted that he gets about 10 headaches a day.

CES reportedly received more than 200 complaints throughout their 10 years of operation. The CEO even pleaded guilty to violating occupational safety violations in 2013 after an employee was killed at a sister company called Port Arthur Environmental Services.

"He was accused of mislabeling and illegally transporting chemicals there and was ordered to pay a fine and serve a year in prison," reported the Chronicle.

Terry Clawson, a spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the state environmental agency that advocates safe waste management, said they're working in conjunction with the bankruptcy trustee and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to "stabilize" the site.

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