This summer, one of our partners in the Rio Grande Valley, A Resource In Serving Equality (ARISE), and our policy analyst Josué Ramirez are holding an intensive training program for teenagers from the South Tower colonias. ARISE leaders hope to engage colonia youth in the governmental process required to address South Tower’s glaring environmental concerns.
The South Tower area, which includes 15 colonias and is home to more than 3,000 people, is situated around the city of Alamo’s open wastewater outfall. Residents must deal with a constant and powerful stench that causes headaches, stomach aches, trouble with breathing and skin rashes. The community is predominantly low income and Hispanic, and ARISE leaders view the environmental hazard as a clear case of racial and economic inequality.
The city of Alamo still uses the outfall, but has not annexed the South Tower colonias and will not commit to proper wastewater treatment. Hidalgo County, which has jurisdiction over South Tower, has only offered temporary solutions that do not solve the problem of a toxic site in the middle of a residential community.
ARISE’s summer session focuses on ways to achieve environmental justice for South Tower, educating youth on sewage, drainage and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s odor complaint investigation process. As part of that training, the teenagers offered their first impressions of the odor problem in their neighborhood.
Here’s what they had to say: