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Environmental Problems Persist For Residents near Former KAFB Site

Photo: Photos by Mary Tuma, License: N/A

Photos by Mary Tuma

Rusted jet engine fuel containers belonging to Alamo Aircraft sit a few feet away from residential property in the “Toxic Trianlge”

Photo: , License: N/A

She and other residents are calling on Councilmember Rey Saldaña, who grew up on the South Side, to form a roundtable that would allow residents to voice their thoughts and put forth their vision for the area. Saldaña is responsive to the idea and says he reached out to activists himself. The District 4 council member is working as a liaison between community members and the Port.

“I know a lot of them are my constituents that have been affected by the legacy of the dumping at Kelly. The best thing to do is get level heads in a room to talk about solutions,” said Saldaña. “Right now it’s a question of communication.”

Additionally, problems persist with Alamo Aircraft, a longtime business in the area that is coming under criticism for improperly storing its jet engine fuel containers in proximity to residential areas. Lodging the complaint on behalf of several members of his family that live in the neighborhood, activist Ramiro Asebedo says hundreds of 55-gallon barrels are being used as a makeshift fence and other obsolete aircraft parts are strewn about haphazardly atop the contaminated land, possibly contributing to harmful living conditions.

His mother-in-law, Marcela Rios, has lived in the “Toxic Triangle” since 1950. She says a few years after moving in, her husband began a losing battle with cancer. Rios’ house sits just a few feet away from a cluster of Alamo’s rusted jet engine fuel containers.

City officials and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality inspectors visited the site recently. While a full, written report from TCEQ will be released in the coming weeks, an attorney with Alamo Aircraft minimized the problems, saying no major environmental hazards were detected during the review.

In the meantime, Alamo is complying with cleanup recommendations from the city.

While grateful the company has agreed to pick up their property, Asebedo remains hawk-eyed about the effort’s full progress, especially in light of the many questionable promises he says were made to the base’s nearby residents during the cleanup process. Unlike most in his community, Asebedo says he has the time and resources to continue to stay persistent.

“People are intimidated to go up against a multi-million dollar company,” said Asebedo. “They’re just caught up with thinking about how they’re going to get through the week, about how they’re going to eat today.”

Lopez agrees, saying her community has trouble expressing its problems. “We try to tell everyone, ‘this is where you live, it’s not wrong to speak up,’ but people are scared.”

As one problem begins to minimize, others seem to arise. For instance, residents are seeing their hopes of abating contamination pushed back further by new environmental woes. The introduction of commercial hydraulic fracturing or fracking in the area has led to an influx of thousands of 18-wheeler trucks carrying fracking sand out of Kelly, according to the Southwest Workers Union.

“It’s a classic case of environmental racism,” says Lopez. “And cumulative damage is a big part of it.”

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