On Friday (July 22), the Department of Justice opened an investigation against the city of Houston to determine whether the alleged dump sites are violating residents' civil rights.
Trinity/Houston Gardens, a northeast Houston area, has faced health risks for years due to the dumping of dead bodies, animals, medical waste, mattresses, and other trash, according to Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke.
Clarke described illegal dumping as “a longstanding environmental justice issue,” noting that dumping sites draw rodents, contaminate water, and increase flood risks by blocking drainage.
“No one in the United States should be exposed to risk of illness and other serious harm because of ineffective solid waste management or inadequate enforcement programs,” Clarke said.
The civil rights probe is one of many ongoing investigations launched by the Biden administration to tackle the disproportionate harm pollution has on low-income areas and communities of color in the U.S.
A complaint in Houston filed by Lone Star Legal Aid accused the city of threatening "the health and safety of Black and Latino people" through the" denial of services, failure to enforce municipal codes and permit restrictions, and failure to adequately and equitably respond to illegal dump site concerns and service requests."
Clarke said the Justice Department would try to collaborate with Houston officials on a compliance plan to address complaints if it finds the city in violation of its residents' civil rights.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement that his administration “received no advanced notice from DOJ” about the investigation.
“This investigation is absurd, baseless, and without merit,” Turner said.