Environmental justice is the part of the green movement that combines civil rights with environmentalism by addressing the fact that vulnerable communities are subject to greater pollution, contamination, and adverse environmental risks. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines environmental justice as when members of a community have the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and have the same access and ability to be involved in the development and implementation of environmental policies. The most common example of environmental injustice, especially in recent years, has been the targeting of vulnerable, generally minority communities for unwanted land uses without granting these communities a voice during the decision-making process.
Located in the middle of a neighborhood off Loop 610, the CES Griggs Road Site is a plot contaminated by over seventy years of industrial cleaning and waste treatment. The site has been used as an area for petrochemical transport truck maintenance since the 1940s and was acquired by CES Environmental for continued truck maintenance and waste treatment in 2002. Members of the surrounding community filed complaints about CES’s negligence in waste disposal for years, most notably citing numerous instances of sludge and strangely colored materials in the streets after large storms. After several lawsuits for workers’ safety violations, CES declared bankruptcy in 2010. Operations completely shut down, leaving unprocessed, toxic waste abandoned on the site. Nothing was done as site remediation until a series of vandalisms involving spilling waste tanks onto the ground occurred in 2014. That same year, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the EPA visited the site after the community continued to voice concerns about their health and safety. The groups ran investigations and found one groundwater and two soil areas with hazardous concentrations of petrochemicals. The abandoned waste and storage containers were removed from the site by 2015. Some cleanup efforts on the property have commenced; TCEQ is working with the Principal Responsible Partner (PRP) to facilitate a cleanup plan and its implementation.
NRCDC and several community organizations are involved in community communication by facilitating conversations between residents and stakeholders of the effected neighborhood and the TCEQ. Ideally, these conversations will lead to a plan for restoring the site to a better standard of quality.