Deiedre Wright volunteers for Environmental Community Advocates of Galena Park to improve air quality for its residents.
There are more than 10,000 people living in Galena Park, an area on the north bank of the Houston Ship Channel, just east of the Houston City limits. Having lived there for 30 years, I have seen and personally experienced some of the worst air pollution in our state.
Yes, we live in an area known for its toxic industrial emissions and no, many do not have the luxury of moving, even though we are exposed daily to air that may be harmful to our health (Note: The median household income is around $31,000 per year.).
I’m not an air quality expert, but have learned over time that more could be done to improve the air we breathe in our community. My thoughts include:
- More monitoring: In our area, there is a great need more air testing sites directly across from the ship channel. The closest monitoring site to Galena Park is more than a mile away from offending chemical plants and 18-wheeler traffic. I’ve never really understood the logic for this. If there is a need to know about Galena Park air quality, shouldn’t the monitors be in Galena Park?
- More city action: Our city needs to do more to deter industry from harming citizens. Perhaps 18-wheeler traffic could be re-routed from the main street going through Galena Park. The trucks use that street as an entry point to the Port of Houston. Particulate matter could be reduced significantly should they be diverted onto a different road within the Port of Houston.
- More industry action: Many of us believe that the most-profitable petrochemical companies do the least to truly help the communities they occupy. Whatever happened to giving back to your community?
- More soil testing: Another concern is for those who plant vegetable gardens in their backyards or elsewhere within the community. The soil is not being tested for contaminants prior to planting and the result could be a non-healthy solution to what people may think is a healthy alternative.
Finally, more education is needed to raise awareness of these air quality issues. When communities are more informed, they come together to help find and demand solutions.