The mayor, who is Black, added that he had “prioritized the needs of communities of color that have historically been underresourced and underserved.”
The Justice Department’s investigation was prompted by a complaint from Lone Star Legal Aid, which has been following complaints from residents in northeast Houston. The area has become a dumping ground for “household furniture, mattresses, tires, medical waste, rubbish, corpses and vandalized ATMs,” Ms Clarke said.
Amy Catherine Dinn, the chief attorney in the environmental law division of the legal aid group, said: “This is all part of the city’s legacy of environmental racism, but that problem has gotten worse as the city has grown — and these neighborhoods have been robbed. of the resources that wealthier white neighborhoods get.”
Ms Dinn said local residents had carefully documented hundreds of incidents of illegal dumping on the residential streets surrounding a local landfill. They registered their complaints through the city’s 311 system, but waited months for help, while similar issues were addressed much more quickly in more affluent neighborhoods, she said.
“This is not a one-time problem,” she added. “The city has basically allowed this community to be used as a landfill.”
The environmental disparities described by the Justice Department on Friday are woven into the city’s urban fabric, a patchwork of commercial and residential buildings. Houston has some of the least restrictive zoning in the country; as a result, many of the city’s petroleum processing facilities, petrochemical plants, landfills and transportation sites have been placed next to low-income residential or working-class areas.