The larger the dot in the interactive map above, the more frequently the surrounding ZIP code deals with sewage overflows, per to the city’s tally of sewage spills between 2009 and 2014. The map, put together by Rachael Gleason with data prepped by John Harden and Mike Morris, goes along with Morris’s update in the Chronicle this weekend on the city of Houston’s ongoing negotiations with the EPA over what to do about the city’s sewage-related water quality issues, with the estimated cost of required infrastructure upgrades and education programs on the horizon currently hanging out in the neighborhood of $5 billion dollars.
The Chronicle’s analysis also notes that most of the areas with above-average sewage spill rates are home to above-average poverty rates, as well as above-average proportions of black and Hispanic residents than the city as a whole. The map above allows readers to superimpose the spill numbers over each ZIP code’s median income and poverty rate (you’ll have to look elsewhere for maps backing up the other claim, though). Another map released earlier this summer pinpoints more precisely the spots where the sewage flows most freely — areas in purple below have seen a minimum of 45 documented sewage spills in the 5-year data period:
Dr. Robert Bullard of TSU points out to Morris that the neighborhoods most regularly seeing the raw sewage backups are a sort of laundry list of areas he’s focused on during his career in Houston environmental justice: “The same neighborhoods we’re talking about are the neighborhoods where, historically, services have bypassed them. This is not a new phenomenon . . . what makes it a real story is we’re talking about 2016,” Bullard tells Morris. “It reinforces this whole concept of environmental injustice and the impact of unequal distribution of resources, and the allocation of dollars based on race and class — you can predict where the worst problems are.”
- Sewer spills put city under EPA scrutiny [Houston Chronicle]
- Massive city sewer struggles will mean higher water bills [Houston Chronicle]
- Previously on Swamplot: Excessive Galveston Beach Bacteria Probably Not Leg-Threatening, Just Fecal, Say Officials; A Purple Map of Race and Public Housing Projects in HoustonSewage Now Flowing Properly Under Gulf Fwy. Again; Houston Bayous: Now Featuring Raw Sewage!
Maps: Houston Chronicle