Though there is some debate about how effective it will be, state regulators in Texas are developing a plan to help identify area that have unhealthy levels of toxins in the air and to get them cleaned up as quickly as possible. Without the backing of a law, however, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will still have its hands tied when it comes to reducing emissions at sites like those that have remained on the watch list for longer than 10 years; voluntary measures have not proven to be effective.
State Representative Alma Allen has proposed a bill requiring TCEQ to take action on watch list sites within five years, but TCEQ officials are confident that they will be able to reduce emissions even without a law. The watch list began in 1996; since that time, cleaner air has been achieved in 10 area. There are currently 11 sites on the list, four of which have been there for over a decade.
Lynchburg Ferry is one of TCEQ’s successes, where benzene levels have been greatly reduced. Benzene is a toxic chemical that can cause leukemia and other health problems. Getting Lynchburg Ferry off the watch list involved enforcement of regulations and careful monitoring of benzene levels every five minutes.
But residents in Galena Park are still being exposed to high levels of benzene in the air. The area was added to the watch list back in 2000. Environmental advocates want TCEQ’s new guidelines to be legally enforceable, so that places like Galena Park will receive the same level of attention as Lynchburg Ferry.
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