The Port Arthur News
Concerns about toxins in the air, polluted water or soil, and even a maze of pipelines running through Port Arthur were topics of concern addressed Monday during day one of the City of Port Arthur and EPA Environmental Justice Summit.
Scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, the two-day event focuses on environmental and socio-economic challenges the community faces. Representatives from numerous state and federal agencies have been invited to see first-hand the challenges facing Port Arthur.
Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince said by bringing city and industry leaders and Port Arthur residents together with agency representatives it is hoped partnerships will be formed to address environmental and socio-economic problems.
“We are in for two exciting days here in Port Arthur,” Prince said Monday. “We need your help and are hoping during the next two days we can show you some of the things we are facing in Port Arthur.”
The city is concentrating on revitalizing the downtown and West side of Port Arthur.
Agency officials toured the city’s Westside on Monday prior to the summit’s start. Known as a “fence-line” community because of it’s close proximity to industrial refineries, the area has long been a place where socio-economic issues are no more challenging than environmental issues.
Planning for a summit started last spring when city officials met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency representatives to discuss environmental issues affecting the area. The EPA had earlier announced Port Arthur was one of 10 U.S. cities selected as Environmental Justice Showcase Communities. Each designated city would be granted $100,000 administered by the EPA toward improvements in public health and the environment.
In Port Arthur, there is no shortage of places to put the money.
“There are signs of progress and signs of challenges,” Bill Luthans, deputy director with the EPA’s multi-media and planning division for Region 6.
Luthans previewed some of the city’s environmental profile information data pulled together by the agency.
The EPA collects data on area ground water, soil samples and air quality.
In the last decade, toxic air emissions that once plagued the area have decreased significantly, Luthans said.
Environmental tests indicate the Intracoastal Waterway, Alligator Bayou and the Gulf of Mexico from Sabine Pass to Sea Rim have been designated as ‘impaired waterways” by the state of Texas because they do not meet state quality standards, he said.
Port Arthur has a higher rate of cancer risk than other cities, Luthans said.
After a panel comprised of Port Arthur residents spoke Monday including Hilton Kelly, with CIDA; Morris Carter, an engineer; and Port Arthur’s Emergency Management Coordinator Major John Owens, Mayor Prince led a tour of downtown Port Arthur.
The city’s downtown is in the process of revitalization efforts.
Summit activities continue Tuesday beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Bob Bowers Civic Center. Day 2 will focus on Port Arthur’s socio-economic, education, housing and health challenges.