Kashmere Gardens Cancer Cluster

Apr 3, 2020

Kashmere Gardens, in the Fifth Ward, used to be a busy community in Houston, until a large number of residents in the area started to die of cancer. The residents were informed there was a dangerous chemical percolating in the groundwater under their homes. Kashmere Gardens is one of the oldest and poorest communities in Houston with about 35 percent of families living in poverty.

The affected area of Kashmere Gardens is accessed by Liberty Road, near a lot that used to be the location of the rail yard. For the last 80 years, wooden railway ties were preserved by using creosote. One of the main components of creosote is arsenic, a dangerous poison. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that exposure to arsenic, is linked to lung cancer.

The dangerous chemicals are leaking into the groundwater supply from the old rail yard. According to the Houston Health Department, creosote contaminants are linked to throat, esophageal and lung cancers.

Union Pacific, who owns the railroad, sent residents a letter that informed them about high levels of creosote contamination in the ground in 2014. However, it turns out, the railway company had known about the problem for at least 20 years, but had not addressed it.

The residents in the area, formed an organization called IMPACT Greater Fifth Ward, determined to do something about the contaminated groundwater. Union Pacific indicated it would work with the residents and with the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality. However, Union Pacific have not confirmed that they would clean up the creosote contamination and stop the plume from spreading.

Instead, the residents of Kashmere Gardens were asked by Union Pacific to not use the groundwater. A report by the Texas Department of State Health Services showed that 10 areas within Fifth Ward had a high number of adult cancer cases of the throat, esophagus and lungs.

While Houston’s Department of Health is concerned about the cancer rate, the response to the situation is up to the state. Many agree that there is a correlation between the presence of creosote and the high rate of cancer in the Kashmere Garden area. However, others are still calling for more studies to be done about this phenomenon.

In cases such as this one, the first things an attorney would look at is whether or not there was negligence involved. Based on the known facts to date, it is likely that there is negligence on the part of Union Pacific – specifically for being aware of the creosote plume and not doing anything to mitigate it. As a result, area residents are getting sick and dying.

For this reason, family of a deceased loved one in the Kashmere Gardens area may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. To learn more about how we can help you with your case, contact The de la Garza Law Group to schedule a free consultation.