The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Friday that it will investigate the City of Houston for civil rights violations in relation to enforcement of illegal dumping laws in black and Latino neighborhoods.
The investigation seeks to determine whether the city’s waste management programs, specifically the enforcement of illegal dumping laws, “resulted in discrimination against Black and Latino residents in violation of Title VI,” which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin, according to a DOJ press release Friday.
“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,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in the press release, “We will conduct a fair and thorough investigation of these environmental justice concerns and their impact on Black and Latino communities in the City of Houston.”
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Illegal dumping has caused problems for the city for years, with residents struggling to see results from Houston’s non-emergency 311 line, according to the Texas Tribune.
“We got a hodgepodge of reasons why people are doing it, but why does it stay on our streets for so long?” Huey German-Wilson, a northeast Houston resident, told the Texas Tribune.
German-Wilson also voiced his displeasure that it became a DOJ matter at all, the Texas Tribune reported.
“They have whole entire budgets and people who deal with these issues — why did we have to go all the way to the Department of Justice?” German-Wilson told the Tribune.
Clarke said that the probe seeks to confirm reports of illegal dumping in Northeastern Houston, and determine what disparities exist in enforcement between different neighborhoods, according to Reuters.
“Addressing discriminatory environmental and health impacts through enforcement of the nation’s civil rights laws is a top priority of the Department of Justice,” the department said, citing the creation of the Office of Environmental Justice in May 2022 as a prime example.
The Solid Waste Management Department of Houston did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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