The Department of Justice has opened up a formal environmental investigation looking into illegal dumping complaints in Houston’s predominately Black and Latino neighborhoods, Politico reports. The complaints outlined dead bodies, animals, medical waste, mattresses, and other trash have been dumped in the Northeast Houston area.
Eleven out of its 13 city-owned landfills and incinerators are alleged to be located in majority-Black neighborhoods.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke says this ongoing issue could violate Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Title VI prevents federal funding recipients from discriminating based on race, color, or national origins in their services and programs.
“Data compiled by the city shows that a high concentration of the illegal dumping occurs within Houston in particular in communities of color,” Clarke told reporters. “Historically, Houston has also placed a high concentration of its municipally owned and operated dump sites and solid waste facilities within predominantly black and Latino communities.”
The investigation will look into Houston’s 311 system, the police department, its department of neighborhoods, and the solid waste management department. Clarke stated the DOJ would examine response times to 311 complaints across all of Houston to determine whether communities with high proportions of Black and Latino residents experience disproportionately worse service. Attorney General Merrick Garland created the Office of Environmental Justice in May to examine how these issues inflict low-income and communities of color more than others.
“Although environmental crime and injustice can happen anywhere, communities of color and low=income communities often bear the highest burden of the harm caused by environmental crime and pollution,” U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery of the Southern District of Texas said on the call.