Comment of the Day: The Limits of Eastward Development

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE LIMITS OF EASTWARD DEVELOPMENT “With every mile moving east, you are getting nearer to Houston’s gigantic petrochemical industrial complex, along with its unpredictable environmental and public health issues, which begin just about a mile east of Eastwood (for example, look at the location of identified Superfund Sites in Harris County, . . . which gives a clear picture). This is the main reason why people in Houston, and those who can afford it, stay as much west as possible. . . . ” [Larry, commenting on Comment of the Day: What’s the Scoop on Eastwood?] Illustration: Lulu

20 Comment

  • Houston’s gigantic petrochemical industrial complex . . . and the location of identified Superfund Sites in Harris County, . . . is the main reason why people in Houston, and those who can afford it, stay as much west as possible

    Good point, but I’d argue that brown people—and not brownfields—is the real reason. Should also have linked to that map with the dots showing the racial distribution of greater Houston. Maybe it’s a correlation/causation issue, but I believe race and attendant socioeconomic problems are preeminent in people’s decisionmaking process as to whether to relocate east.

  • You’re about to get an earful from people who live in Eastwood and Idylwood, get ready for some Shrapnel. I’ve been to Eastwood and I’ve never smelled a chemical plant, all I smelled was coffee. I never really even thought about it as being near chemical plants and as for Houston’s growth west, that was because the Hogg Brothers develop led River Oaks and the rest is history.

  • I would like to point out that environmental issues are not limited to the blighted side of town. There used to be Cameron Iron Works on the site of the current MarQ shopping center on I10 and Silber which contaminated ground water in the 60’s. All the homes going south to the Buffalo Bayou including million dollar homes along Buckingham and Cornovan have elevated chemical emissions perculating through foundations. So much so that it’s on the Seller’s Disclosures.

  • I realize this is a very public concern and is even more hyped in the news, but what people fail to realize is main cause for air pollutants has changed since the 80s. With higher emissions standards, the EPA and TCEQ have cut about as much as they can out of these “polluting” refineries. NOx and SOx levels are at record lows and with the TCEQ losing it’s recent court battles with the EPA in July, more is surely to come.

    Attending these seminars about air pollutants at the HBRT (Houston Business Roundtable) we find that the major source for pollutants now are cars and fires in Mexico. So you get more air pollutant along I-10 than someone on the east end warehouse district.

    As for the East End residential development, yes not much is going to happen outside of 610 for residential, but to lump a hemisphere of Houston under 1 area is simply narrow minded.

  • From the Houston Chronicle, 1/13/05 ( ” People living in some east Harris County neighborhoods, the East End and parts of Texas City are at greater risk of contracting cancer because of toxic chemicals released by the region’s industrial plants, according to a state analysis of 2003 air quality data.”

    My opinion, without any research to back it up, is that the less educated people and people with few financial resources choose to live in this part of our city because it is cheaper to live there, or they just don’t understand what’s happening around them.

  • Citing a nearly nine-year old article from the Chronicle is not going to clinch any argument, Karen. Do consider flooding, though, as the 2007 FEMA map shows areas such as Bellaire, West U. and points west to be quite a bit more flood-prone than eastern areas of Houston. Against this is the possibility of a hurricane surge roaring up the ship channel, stirring up God-knows-what poisons and spreading them all over. We might want to think again about that $1.5 billion sea gate we just heard about.

  • There used to be a website(I can’t find it now)that showed the plume maps as the plumes drifted from the plants across the area. The general East End was actually quite clear as the plumes usually drifted to the NW. I moved over here almost 12 years ago and was concerned. That’s not to say that I’m not getting my fair share of that stuff in my body though.

  • You people are plain delusional, if not ignorant if you think by living in west Houston, you’re escaping Houston’s petrochemical pollution. Get real!

  • Regarding the “brown people” comment, that may have been true decades ago, but southwest and northwest Houston have been more brown than white for some time now, so I’d say that reason is much less important at the regional level. At the local level it may still be a big factor though – not too many white folks seem eager to move to north Katy / south Cypress these days, but they’re salivating over south Katy like dogs looking at a bone pile…

  • Gisgo, you’re probably right about the airborne pollution being distributed over the area quite widely. Still, location location location determines real estate prices over everything. And particulate polution is probably a function of distance (and also prevailing winds, I’m sure). Superfund sites can be found in many parts of the city, but they are quite plentiful near the Ship Channel. Hearing stories from a friend of mine many years ago (20+) about brown sludge appearing in the playground of the elementary school where she was teaching (and during which time she had 3 miscarriages) in La Porte stayed with me.

  • Local Planner, I agree, and my comment was directed more towards how that neighborhood is perceived. Heck, I would live there if something that met my needs actually came for sale once in a while! Edwin is spot-on in his assessment of people who might think they’re somehow safer being two miles west from the Ship Channel: sure, your Tanglewood manse might be “far” from a refinery, but you also walked past the demolished Macy’s downtown on your way to lunch and breathed in like .01 ppm of mannequin dust.

  • Houston Regional Monitoring Corporation

  • There are three big air quality concerns for Houstonians: toxics, smog and particulates. Living in the East end puts you on the front line for toxic emissions. Toxics tend to be heavier than air and do not travel very far from where they are released. Milby Park had almost off the chart levels of Butadiene 1,3 back in mid 2000 due to problems at the Texas Petrochem plant next door. That problem was fixed and levels have come way down. But, if there is a release or a leak that is sending off toxics, the East end gets the best whiff. On days where there is little wind, the East end is also the spot most likely to get smog (NOx + SOx + sun=ozone). If there is good circulation in the atmosphere, Pearland to Sugar Land can see pretty bad smog, especially with the old coal plant in Sugar Land. But so can everywhere from Memorial Park up to the Woodlands. Houston’s smog has improved dramatically thanks to some good work by regulators and industry in identifying and going after the highly reactive stuff that really drives ozone production. But Houston is still in the top ten nationally when it comes to ozone Particulates are not as big a concern in Houston as we do not have much steel or other industries that are heavy on particulates, but we are still just over the new Federal standard of 12 parts per somethingerother. The particulates on the East end are generally higher than in other parts of town due to all the industry in the area. The air quality on the east side is definitely worse than on the west side. But ozone (smog) can visit just about anyone in the Houston area.

  • @Commonsense – isn’t contamination on those Memorial seller’s disclosures because those properties have wells? I thought the disclosure had to do with groundwater contamination. Meaning that it might be unsafe to use the well located on the property. Not because of stuff coming up through(?) foundations.

    I wish I could say that I’m concerned because I own one of these multi-million$$$ mansions…

  • The properties are connected to COH water and sewer so that’s really not an issue but there are many exploratory wells/drill holes in that area that were capped off and you actually find the metal covers. Back in the day there was a huge lawsuit and tests were done where there is detectable amount of some chemical (similar to Drycleaning fluid) coming up through the slabs. In fact some homes were so bad that Cameron offered to buy the homes if they cannot be sold at “market value” to a third party.
    Having said that, it was long time ago and I think Cameron ended up cleaning up a lot of the ground water with that pumping station by Aughty school.

  • From the comments here, I would conclude that many people are too ignorant of the issue of pollution to arrive at any sensible conclusions…but they will still arrive at conclusions. That is to say whether deservedly so or not, yes, East Houston has a bad reputation and this fact most definitely diminishes from the pool of potential residents.

    The thing is, though, that East Houston is a very big place and is differently affected by different types of pollution. For instance, living in Manchester would make me worry about exposure to very nearly everything. It’s next to a freeway and the ship channel, so it’s got gobs of particulates. It’s adjacent to chemical plants, so it has toxics. Nobody WANTS to live in Manchester. But that’s a long way from Idylwood or Eastwood, and in between them aren’t very many other point-source polluters.

    With Eastwood in particular, if we’re worried about living there then we may as well worry for the students at UH, workers downtown, and the hipster-wannabe residents of fancy new Midtown apartments. Oh, and brown people too. Right… Can’t forget about brown people.

    @ Karen: You linked to an article about a study that I read cover-to-cover when it came out. Perhaps it was for lack of adequate funding or resources, but the results were very weak and the author was intellectually honest about it. The press liked it, though, took what they wanted from it, and ignored all of the author’s own cautions about the applicability of the results.

  • Excellent point, Niche. Brown and black people are the real reason people hate my neighborhood, even though nobody ever admits it.
    Contaminated soil is a better reason to steer clear of a neighborhood. Really, it is. And if you can’t see that – if you still think (but won’t say) that black & brown neighborhoods are high-crime and you’d rather live on an old sludge factory – you’re part of the problem.

  • ZAW, the problem of soil contamination will never affect eastwood, or the areas directly around it. look at historical maps of houston. That area was always homes, and nothing else. petrochem stayed east, and closer to buffalo bayou.
    anyone that lives here knows that it’s a safe area, most that have irrational fears stay away. pointing out those irrational fears might help them get over these irrational fears and learn that most people of every skin color are just trying to live and be happy with their family and friends. not kill and maim you for the zanex you have in the pill closet.

  • @ ZAW: Huh??