On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department announced it opened an environmental justice investigation into the City of Houston’s operations relating to illegal dumping.
The Civil Rights Division of the department will investigate whether the city discriminated against Black and Latino Houston residents with its response to municipal service requests, specifically illegal dumping, according to the Justice Department.
In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said illegal dumpsites pose a health risk that attracts vermin and can contaminate surface water.
“No one in the United States should be exposed to risk of illness and other serious harm because of ineffective solid waste management or inadequate enforcement programs,” Clarke said. “We will conduct a fair and thorough investigation of these environmental justice concerns and their impact on Black and Latino communities in the City of Houston.”
The investigation will determine whether the City of Houston’s waste management operations violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Title VI prohibits government funds from being used in a discriminatory or racist manner. A similar argument was cited by federal highway officials to pause the expansion of I-45 in Houston. Likewise in March, Department of Housing and Urban Development that the Texas General Land Office violated Title VI with how it distributed Hurricane Harvey-related disaster funds.