The mission of Texas Health and Environment Alliance (THEA) is to protect water resources, public health, and irreplaceable ecosystems like Galveston Bay’s estuary from the harmful effects of toxic waste. We endeavor to establish an informed and engaged public movement to restore and protect the lower portion of the San Jacinto River’s Watershed and Galveston Bay from toxic pollution. We envision a watershed with pristine water, a healthy fishery, and surrounding communities free from toxic contamination.
In 2015, Texas Health and Environment Alliance (THEA) became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and engaging the public and policymakers to support a clean, toxin-free watershed in our region.
Initially, THEA focused on the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site through our program, the San Jacinto River Coalition (SJRC). The Waste Pits were created in the 1960’s and have leached dioxin and other toxins into the San Jacinto River and Galveston Bay. While our efforts there are still ongoing, we’re expanding our reach to additional Superfund sites and contaminated communities in need of our help. THEA has demonstrated its ability to remediate toxic waste through strong community organizing, strategic science, and media exposure.
While working with the San Jac Superfund Site, we recognized the need for a broader-based organization to address the impacts of toxic contamination. We want the Houston area to have a safe, equitable environment for all who visit and live in the region. Abandoned toxic waste sites are a serious threat to public health and to the environment. THEA works to safeguard public health by preventing or minimizing exposure to harmful contaminants. In Harris County alone, there are more than 20 toxic waste sites and hundreds of groundwater contamination cases each year. This extensive contamination harms fisheries, threatens public health and impedes the region’s resiliency.
We are adept at using science strategically by securing independent studies that fill crucial gaps in the knowledge base, educating the public and policymakers, and bringing objectivity into the remediation process. We are effective at using media coverage to disseminate scientific findings as well as building and maintaining partnerships and momentum. Combining these main strategies, we are a trusted and productive lifeline between government agencies and the public.
Our effectiveness in each of these areas has resulted in significantly expanded public awareness of toxic contamination, momentum for change, and greater accountability. Furthermore, through our efforts at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits, we have developed a robust model that we can apply to other toxic waste sites and public health issues in the region and beyond.
Our ultimate goal is to expand this grassroots movement by increasing authentic, diverse, and broad community support for the remediation of toxic waste sites. This requires engaging a broad range of people, agencies, and organizations. The primary beneficiaries of our programs are residents and business owners who live in communities near these toxic waste sites. However, our engagement efforts and our impact reach far beyond these localities.
Jackie Young is the Executive Director and founder of Texas Health and Environment Alliance, the home of the San Jacinto River Coalition. Our executive director is uniquely qualified to lead this effort because of her scientific background, her experience in communicating with the media, and her own personal experience with the effects of toxic waste. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science with a Geology focus from the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL). As an undergraduate, the core of her research was on environmental issues in the small town her family called home: Highlands, Texas. Additionally, she assisted a joint research project between UHCL and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The study evaluated small coastal communities in both Texas and North Carolina in order to understand what facilitates and hinders post-disaster housing recovery.
In 2014, Jackie was selected by Citizens League for Environmental Action Now (CLEAN Houston) for the Houston Heroes series, People Who Make a Difference. Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Nick Anderson, was the first to illustrate the unfortunate events that Young’s family endured and turned into action. The cartoons featured a series of high-profile, full-page editorial cartoons that were published in The Houston Chronicle in 2014. More recently, The Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter awarded Jackie with the 2015 Environmental Justice Award. The Baytown Sun named Jackie as a finalist for 2016 Citizen of the Year, and one of 20 people under 40 who are making a difference in the community. In November 2016, Houston Peace and Justice Center awarded Jackie with the Houston Peacemaker Award. Jackie was recognized in Houston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 in June of 2018.
Through Jackie’s personal experience and research, she developed a passion for fighting for environmental justice. She plans to continue working through THEA to make our region a safer place for future generations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is anything being done about public health near the Waste Pits?
In 2015, we worked with Texas Department of State Health Services on an Assessment of the Occurrence of Cancer in East Harris County, TX.
The department looked into the cancer registry for Texas and pulled data for the 17 types of cancer we most commonly come across in the community. The state’s report provided the rates of those 17 types of cancer within the study area, and compared those to rates across the State of Texas. Cervical cancer, kidney cancer, and rare cancer in children such as retinoblastoma came back statistically significant nearest the Waste Pits. In total, within the study area, 14 of the 17 types of cancer were found in elevated rates. The Department is no longer working on this study but we continue to collect current health data to continue advocating for those living and/or working near the toxic waste.
We are working to bring you more information on Dioxin Pollution, Water Quality, and Historical Pollution. Below you will find links to relevant websites; while you are here please take a moment to Add Your Voice for Removal of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits. If you live in or have lived in a compromised area and are comfortable doing so we have a community health survey here.