Houston may be a lucrative oil town, but activists say the money is leaving some neighborhoods in the dust

FILE - In this April 16, 2010, file photo, steam rises from towers at an Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown, Texas. Decisions by President Barack Obama's administration overturning Texas' air permitting program show that Democrats in control of the federal government are taking a stand against Perry and his long-running fight with the feds. Exxon Mobil, the nation's largest refinery, and several other facilities in Texas have been operating under permits never approved by the EPA. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

As Houston works to become a cleaner place, it still faces a lot of difficulties.

Piles of scrap metal pepper the Buffalo Bayou, Cesar Chaves High School and the polluted waters of the shipping channel.

The proximity of residential neighborhoods, like Manchester to name one, to petrochemical refineries and the chemicals they pump out daily is, according to some activists, also a major problem; Chavez High was built near three of them.

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Juan Parras, the executive director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), gives free “toxic tours,” guided journeys through the so-called dirtiest parts of Houston to shed light on the problems they create.

The Valero refinery near Manchester, for instance, churns out over 100,000 barrels of oil a day, but it isn’t just oil raising activists’ concern:

There are residential neighborhoods right under the Ship Channel bridge, part of I-610, which see thousands of vehicles per day.

According to the Tribune, exhaust from those cars and trucks alone goes into the air of residents, creating a noxious environment even without the effects of oil, almost all of them minorities with low income, as well.

Furthermore, a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists and TEJAS found a cancer rate 22 percent higher in Manchester and nearby Harrisburg.

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Despite the findings, the issue is still struggling to gain political momentum, leaving it to activists like Parras to open people’s eyes to the truth.

What do you think?

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