"In the weeks after the storm, everyone in the neighborhood got sick. The air smelled bad, there were dead fish on the streets, and there was debris everywhere."

Jessica Hernandez
Harris County resident

I live in the South Belt area, near I-45 and Beltway 8. When Hurricane Harvey struck, our neighborhood was devastated by the flooding, and most of us are still trying to recover a year later. Around two to three feet of water entered our home, and about six feet of water covered the nearby streets. The water was full of debris, and there was oil floating on the surface.

I worry that chemicals from nearby industrial sites may have leaked into the floodwaters that entered our homes. Right before the hurricane, a company built chemical storage domes near my home. The Brio Superfund site is also about a mile from my home, a site known to have soil contaminated by carcinogenic materials since the 1980’s. Prior to the storm, officials said that the contaminated soil was secure. I don’t know if that is still the case after such massive flooding.

In the weeks after the storm, everyone in the neighborhood got sick. The air smelled bad, there were dead fish on the streets, and there was debris everywhere. My family developed a hoarse cough for months. We suddenly seemed to have allergies that we didn’t have before. All of us who were exposed to the water had stomach viruses for weeks. We went to a doctor, and he said there was no way to determine exactly what was in the water.

Mold has also been an issue in my community since Harvey. When we went back home after the storm, we found mold all over our walls, furniture, and clothing. We threw away most of our belongings, but it took months to completely restore the house. I didn’t want my kids to be exposed to the toxic air, and we did not have flood insurance, so my husband and I did most of the work ourselves. Many of our neighbors could not afford to rebuild, and some still live in moldy homes today. A number of homes were even condemned and demolished due to the owners’ inability to control the mold.

After everything we went through, all I want is for my family to be happy and healthy. I can finally see that things will be okay, but I still get nervous every time it rains. It does not seem like Houston is better prepared for another storm like Harvey. I see a lot of new construction happening around the city, yet hardly any of it is focused on flood prevention.  I hope that people’s safety and health can be more prioritized in the future.

How would you tag this suggestion?
Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

ONE BREATH PARTNERSHIP IS