Some Corpus Christi residents live
too close for comfort to the city's largest refineries, the top federal
environmental official in five states said.
Al Armendariz, regional
administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency Region 6, said the fence
line communities of Dona Park and Hillcrest should be priorities to receive
help on environmental justice issues.
Both neighborhoods have been the
subject of numerous private and public environmental health studies in the past
two decades because they are located near several petroleum refineries.
Armendariz traveled to Corpus
Christi on Friday to meet with local environmental activists, including
Citizens for Environmental Justice, a local grass-roots group led by Suzie
Canales. This was his second visit to Corpus Christi since being named regional
administrator in November 2009.
Armendariz led other EPA officials
on a windshield tour of the Dona Park neighborhood.
Some Dona Park residents are asking
state and federal environmental officials to halt demolition of the shuttered
ASARCO/Encycle plant nearby after a former employee reported hazardous
chemicals remain on the site despite past cleanup efforts.
The demolition began last week.
Some, including Canales, have
suggested buyouts, an option that Armendariz said the EPA has very little
"The Clean Air Act funds only
buyouts of those homes built directly over hazardous waste sites," he
said, citing New York's Love Canal near Niagara Falls as an example.
Dona Park has nearly 300 residential
properties worth a total of $15 million, according to a Caller-Times analysis
of Nueces County Appraisal District records. The median property value,
including homes and lots, is about $52,000.
Some homeowners say they should be
offered more than their appraised value because the nearby industry has lowered
their property values.
The EPA is addressing several
concerns regarding the plant with state environmental officials, Armendariz
"We want to be sure the
community is not being affected by the work being done there," he said.
Canales said Friday's meeting
addressed specific issues, including the need to establish a committee of
environmental officials and activists to monitor what is being removed from the
She said Armendariz committed to
helping establish the committee, although a time frame was not given.