07/18/16 10:30am

FIRST ZIKA BIRTH DEFECTS CONFIRMED IN HARRIS COUNTY AS CONGRESS GOES ON BREAK Legacy Montrose Clinic, 1415 California St., Montrose, Houston (12)On Friday Congress left for a 7-week recess without approving any funding to deal with the potential for the Zika virus to spread in the US; the break started just 2 days after Harris County Public Health confirmed the county’s first case of a baby born with Zika-related microcephaly. While no home-grown cases of the virus have yet been reported in Texas, Baylor’s Dr. Peter Hotez tells Maggie Fox that local spread “might already have started on the Gulf Coast and we would have missed it,” noting that federal funding would have given a boost to underprepared local agencies in mosquito-heavy Southern states. Hotez and other public health types say that the kinds of mosquitos that carry the virus (which are adapted to urban environments and are active during the day) are able to breed anywhere from a drip pan in a suburban refrigerator to the perennial piles of illegally dumped tires around Fifth Ward. Healthcare workers at Legacy Community Health Services also tell Fox that Houston is “a perfect place for Zika to take hold and reach a crisis point,” particularly since the 16-plus percent of Texans who are uninsured aren’t likely to seek treatment and get diagnosed.  [NBC] Photo of Legacy Community Health Services building at 1415 California St.: Candace Garcia

10/27/14 12:00pm

THE NEWEST PLACE TO GO DOWNTOWN Public Restroom, Tranquillity Park, Rusk and Smith Streets, Downtown HoustonA reader writes: “Until this morning I had never noticed this public restroom (really just a port-o-john with a thoughtfully labeled enclosure around it) downtown next to Tranquility Park at the corner of Rusk and Smith. Everybody knows that Swamplot is Houston’s most trusted source for breaking news about the city’s top cat 5 dump hotspots, so I figured I’d send y’all this update. I definitely feel sorry for whoever has to maintain this facility, but if the city has decided to provide a refuge for the park’s inhabitants in an attempt to discourage the use of secluded downtown doorways or parking garage stairwells, then I think it’s a great idea.” Photo: Swamplot inbox

08/20/14 12:00pm

CITY MAY SOON CAN RULES THAT FORCE HOUSTON FOOD TRUCKS TO SPACE OUT Waffle Bus and Bernie's Burger Bus Food Trucks, University of Houston, HoustonWhat makes Houston’s food truck scene so quirky, so scrappy, so outré? Well, it could be some of the wacky rules mobile food units are required to follow when they’re operating within city limits — to guard against terrorism, major explosions, and other all-too-common street-food hazards. Three such rules — the fire code regulations that mandate that trucks park no closer than 60 ft. away from one another and that propane-equipped vehicles stay out of Downtown and the Texas Medical Center, and the health code ruling that subjects owners of mobile food vendors to fines if they’re found parking within 100 ft. of any table or chair — could be going away soon, however. A task force charged with looking into the issue is recommending the city 86 those particular regulations but keep in place others, including the requirement to visit a commissary every day. A city council committee meeting this afternoon will be the first opportunity for public comment on the proposed changes; the city’s Laura Spanjian tells Culturemap’s Eric Sandler that she doesn’t expect to the Greater Houston Restaurant Association to object to the recommendations. [Culturemap; more info] Photo: UH

02/25/14 4:00pm

Screenshot of EPA Map of Houston Showing Relative Cancer Risk from Air Toxics

How do you feel about Houston’s airborne cancer hotspots? That’s easy! Just pick up a copy of the latest issue of Cite magazine and run your fingers over the top of it: Cite 93‘s front cover has been embossed with a map diagramming the area’s cancer risk. The places where airborne toxins mapped by the EPA are most prevalent are in the pits.

The mapped information here isn’t exactly fresh — it’s from the 2005 National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment, and the data only account for airborne known-cancer-causing toxins that are tracked by the EPA. Though it’s posted online, the map version isn’t exactly easy to find. But bravely thumbing his nose at Houston’s proud and longstanding tradition of hush-hushing location-based cancer hazards, Cite editor Raj Mankad gives Swamplot readers the secret recipe for finding the browsable map:


Air Toxics, Online
09/10/13 4:15pm

W. A. PARISH PLANT ONE OF THE WORST POLLUTERS IN THE COUNTRY, FINDS REPORT According to a new study published by Environment America, NRG Energy’s coal-firing W. A. Parish Electric Generating Plant, on Smithers Lake outside of Richmond, is really good at being dirty. Though the plant has been messing around with a way to clean itself up in the past year or so, the report, published today, still fingers it as the 5th dirtiest in the country when it comes to carbon emissions. And here, in order, are 1-4: “Georgia Power Co.’s Plant Scherer, Alabama Power Co.’s James H. Miller Jr. Plant, Luminant’s Martin Lake in Texas, [and] Ameren’s Labadie in Missouri.” [StateImpact; Environment America; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Flickr user Joe A.

09/04/13 10:00am

Royce White might never have suited up for the Houston Rockets, spending most of his rookie season toiling in the D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and — umm, tweeting, but it appears he has found a way to contribute to the city. Last week, White — who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder — announced that his foundation, Anxious Mind’s, which he started when he was playing college ball at Iowa State, will partner with Bee Busy Wellness Clinic to open a free mental health facility on W. Bellfort. The clinic will also provide dental services and primary care and will open this January inside the Rubik’s Cube-like former Frank Neighborhood Library at 6440 W. Bellfort, shown here, just west of Westbury and Meyerland. White played in only 16 games last season; he was caught up in disputes with Rockets management about travel arrangements — he hates to fly — and team doctors. In July, he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Photo: Allyn West

08/29/13 10:00am

STUDYING HOUSTON’S ROADSIDE AIR QUALITY Another source of Houston’s pollution has got the attention of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality: tailpipes. Starting in January, the agency will place a pair of monitors within 160 ft. of 2 our most heavily used roads — including the Southwest Fwy. near the Westpark Tollway — to record the amount of nitrogen dioxide leaked into the air. Apparently, the stuff can be pretty nasty, writes the Houston Chronicle’s Matthew Tresaugue: “The Environmental Protection Agency said studies have measured concentrations of the gas to be as much as 100 times greater near major roadways than away from them. Scientists, meanwhile, have linked the pollutant to asthma and other lung ailments, especially among children and the elderly.” The results of these monitors, adds Tresaugue, might lead the city to make decisions about preventing schools and residences from being built in and around affected areas. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo: AA Roads

05/30/13 4:35pm

HOW HOUSTON’S AIR GOT BETTER During the past decade, Houston’s notoriously polluted air has become — well, if not quite good, then not quite as bad, says NPR’s Richard Harris. (Pay no attention to what that ozone app may or may not tell you.) How? Well, it seems that pollution regulators in the early aughts had been worrying about all the wrong gases: “They were going all-in against [only] one of the pollutants that create smog, while downplaying the role of other emissions from the petrochemical plants,” reports Harris. “Barges carting chemicals up and down the [Ship Channel] were leaking. . . . And some types of storage tanks were leaking as well. . . . It turns out that routine day-to-day emissions were not the biggest problem.” Since then, regulations targeting those chemicals, like ethylene — as well as the use of infrared cameras that can spot them — appear to have made a difference: Port of Houston Authority employee Dana Blume tells Harris: “I can look out of my office window now and almost every single day see downtown.” [NPR; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Flickr user stmu_mike

03/08/13 11:30am

The redo of this Chenevert St. warehouse is complete, Mayor Parker announced yesterday, and the Houston Center for Sobriety is ready to give drunk people a place to dry out. Next to the Eastex Fwy., the 84-bed center at 150 N. Chenevert will operate out of a 19,000-sq.-ft. building behind the Star of Hope homeless shelter, across from Irma’s Mexican restaurant on Ruiz and just a few blocks north of Minute Maid Park.


01/10/13 3:26pm

Stoked by the success of the Lee and Joe Jamail Skate Park on Sabine St., the City of Houston earlier this week broke ground that’ll soon be smoothed over by 72,000 sq. ft. of concrete; the 10-acre Spring Recreational Area in Greenspoint will feature what’s being billed as the largest skate park in the U.S.

Something like the rendering above is planned for the site on Kuykendahl, just west of I-45 and north of Beltway 8. It’s projected to cost $5.5 million. That cost includes the construction of “speed hips” and “flow bowls” and “a couple of backyard-style pools,” the Greenspoint District says — things any park worth its vert ramps needs to attract national competitions.

Skateboarders will share the acreage with Dylan’s Park, a “Park Without Limits” that will include equipment and implements designed for children with disabilities. Greenspoint District says the designs are done; the whole thing’s going to be ready in Spring 2014.

Rendering: Greenspoint District

10/06/11 4:17pm

THE PLUMBERS SURE WORK FAST AT LENNY’S IN THE TUNNEL According to the Houston Press‘s latest roundup of city Health Dept. inspection reports, the dowtown Lenny’s Sub Shop in the tunnel beneath 1001 Fannin St. was cited recently for not having the minimum number of handwashing sinks available for workers. Not to worry, though: The inspection report indicates the violation was “corrected on site.” [Eating Our Words]

09/26/11 12:20pm

The restaurant dog ban is over. Ziggy’s Bar + Grill at 302 Fairview in Montrose, one of the first establishments to get involved in the Paws on Patios campaign begun last year, was the recipient last week of the first-ever city of Houston dogs-on-patios permit. Establishments that want to follow suit will need to maintain a separate self-closing doggie entrance gate to the patio, labeled with a sign identifying it as a “dog friendly patio”; keep hand sanitizer and disposable water bowls available; keep the patio free of visible “dog hair, dog dander, and other dog-related waste or debris”; and make sure restaurant personnel don’t pet or serve any four-legged customers. Owners are supposed to keep their pets on leashes and away from the tableware.

Photo: Paws on Patios

07/26/11 12:02pm

SPURRING A TOILET REVOLUTION What the world needs now, according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: better places to poop. This year, the foundation will spend $3 million to fund 8 university teams working to reinvent the toilet. New off-sewer-system toilets for the 21st century would save lives around the world and “turn crap into valuable resources.” And who knows? Backwards thinking like that might end up making it cheaper to build more of our beloved way-out burbs around here too. [Gates Foundation] Video: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

05/04/10 1:34pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: CLEARING THE AIR AROUND CLEAR LAKE CITY “As a resident of the area, I’m very interested in your comment about ‘knowing what was going on around and within Clear Lake City before Exxon developed it as a community…’ Are you aware of anything specific that might raise concerns, or is this just a baseless consumer scare?” [C.T., commenting on Comment of the Day: Clear Lake City Cleans Up Nicely]

04/28/10 1:54pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: CLEAR LAKE CITY CLEANS UP NICELY “Is there a discount [for homes near chemical plants]? Hell yes! And it’s for lots of reasons: 1) real or perceived pollution, 2) real or perceived high crime, 3) low elevations, 4) higher property insurance rates, 5) fewer nearby white collar jobs, and 6) living there indicates to snobs that you’ve got a low social status. Most of the discount is unwarranted, but it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Look at Clear Lake City; parts of it are only about 1.5 miles from the nearest chemical plants. It was developed upon depleted oil fields and is adjacent to still-active fields. (It was developed by a subsidiary of Exxon!) It’s adjacent to an airport. It has a low elevation. But all that stuff is out of sight, out of mind, and so there’s no stigma.” [TheNiche, commenting on House Shopping in the Chemical Discount Zones: Finding Houston’s Less-Toxic Neighborhoods]