Hidalgo, Cameron counties ranked in 98 percentile of risk in environmental study

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A new interactive map highlights what’s being called environmental injustice in the Rio Grande Valley.

The map was released this week by nonprofit research and environmental advocacy groups like Texas Rising, and it shows that two local counties are among the worst in the state when it comes to pollution.

What are referred to as cumulative environmental risk scores represent what level of health-risks there are for each county and census tract in the state. The score takes into account pollution, and socioeconomic factors, given that those play a role in how quickly can get information and healthcare.

“We know that communities of color and low-income communities are not always able to withstand the impacts of pollution,” said Texas Rising spokesperson Jose Medina.

Using data pulled from the Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the map also shows several facilities and systems that the EPA is still eyeing, which could contribute to pollution or hazards here in the Valley like the:

  • Donna reservoir and canal system
  • Pictsweet Co. Monte Alto TX plant
  • Helena Chemical Co 
  • Zimco Marine, inc.
  • Brownsville Tire Fire

“One of the highest risk scores of the state are found in two counties in the Rio Grande Valley,” Medina said.

In fact, both Hidalgo and Cameron County are ranked in the 98th percentile of risk compared to the rest of the state. Medina says these include respiratory risk and risks to the groundwater and soil.

According to a release, the map is designed to help Texans learn more about the impacts of pollution, and climate disasters on their area. People are also encouraged to share their stories, and ultimately take action.

“We hope it’s a tool for elected officials all over the state who will see the inequities found,” Medina said.

To find out more about your community and your potential risk, you can head to ej.txrising.org.

Editor's note: This story originally aired on March 17, 2021. 


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