World

Houston abolishes sites deemed infringing civil rights

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department said on Friday it was investigating illegal dumping of trash in the city of Houston – including corpses – that officials said was left in black and Latino neighborhoods in the city. fourth largest city in the country.

The investigation will be led by the department’s civil rights division and will look into whether city police and other departments discriminated against Black and Latino residents in violation of federal civil rights law. In addition to the body, items thrown away in the majority of Black or Latino neighborhoods include equipment, furniture, tires, medical waste and vandalized ATMs, the Assistant Attorney General Attorney Kristen Clarke said at a news conference on Friday.

“Illegal dumping is a longstanding environmental justice issue, and like many environmental justice issues, it often burdens communities,” said Clarke, head of the department’s civil rights division. disproportionately black and Latino communities”.

The investigation is the first environmental justice action to be made publicly available since Attorney General Merrick Garland established an environmental justice office within the agency in May. The new office focuses on “fenceline communities” in Houston, New Orleans, Chicago and other cities that have suffered from air and water pollution from chemical plants, oil refineries and other industrial sites.

Illegal landfills not only attract rodents, mosquitoes and other insects that pose a health risk, she said, but can also contaminate surface water and make neighboring areas vulnerable to pollution. more flooded. Clarke and other officials say they can also reduce property values, hurt quality of life and even reduce expected lifespans.

“No one in the United States is at risk of disease and other serious harm from ineffective solid waste management or inadequate enforcement programs,” she said.

The Houston investigation will focus on Trinity/Houston Gardens, a predominantly Black and Latino neighborhood in northeast Houston. Residents regularly complain about illegal dumping there, Clarke said.

Mary Benton, a spokeswoman for Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, said Friday she was “not aware of” dead bodies dumped anywhere in Houston. The city doubled the maximum fines for illegal dumping violations last year, she said.

The federal investigation follows a complaint filed by Lone Star Legal Aid, a nonprofit advocacy group that helps low-income residents of Texas and Arkansas with a range of legal issues, including landlord disputes. – tenants, foreclosures, disaster recovery and environmental justice.

A spokesperson for the Houston-based group could not be reached immediately for comment.

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