"Life On The Houston Fifth Ward’s Plume"

"HOUSTON — There's a certain smell that reminds Dianna Cormier-Jackson of her childhood on Leila Street in Houston's Fifth Ward. When she was young in the early 1960s, she recalls the air there feeling "heavy," as if it was thick with oil and gasoline. Some days, the heavy smell would be so strong that her parents would make her and her siblings stay in the house. But on school days, they marched out into the rank air.

Today, Cormier-Jackson can't catch a whiff of the smell without thinking of her brother Ronald Joseph, who used to walk her home from nearby Dogan Elementary. He would have preferred his sister not tag along after school. Her legs were shorter than his, her steps smaller, and with each of her brother's bounds over the top of the rain puddles, her feet would drop into them with a splash. She remembers looking down at her shoes, stuck in puddles glistening with oil sheens––the holographic blues, purples, and yellows, smeared into the water like a Jackson Pollock painting.

Once they made it home, Cormier-Jackson would cry to their mother about how her brother made her mess up her shoes and socks. Her mother would scrub and scrub, but the yellow tint never would wash out."

Xander Peters reports for Scalawag and Environmental Health News August 3, 2021.

Source: Scalawag/EHN, 08/06/2021