The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has been involved in Corpus Christi public health concerns for more than a decade. Between 1995 and 2008, private citizens petitioned ATSDR about health concerns related to chemicals in the city’s air, water, and soil. The petitions focused on
- Chemicals released to soil from a former smelter;
- Chemicals released to air, soil, and water from two landfills;
- Chemicals released to air from refineries and petrochemical companies; and,
- Whether high birth-defect rates in the Corpus Christi area were in any way related to activities at area industrial sites, or to releases from those sites.
The Former Smelter near Dona Park
In 1996, ATSDR’s cooperative agreement partner the Texas Department of State Health Services completed a health consultation [PDF, 3.7 MB] about the former smelter. The concern was exposure to metals in and near the former smelter’s soil. The consultation focused on possible health effects for nearby residents.
Chula Vista and Greenwood Landfills
In 2001, the Texas Department of State Health Services completed another health consultation [PDF, 4.37 MB] concerning Corpus Christi. This one discussed issues raised in a citizens’ petition regarding the landfill.
Corpus Christi Refinery Row (CCRR)
Corpus Christi Refinery Row community members first contacted ATSDR in 2002. Community members were concerned about health effects from petroleum-related area facilities. ATSDR agreed to evaluate the public health effects of exposure to petroleum-related chemicals in Refinery Row’s outdoor air. To get a good picture of Refinery Row air quality, ATSDR needed several years of air monitoring data. ATSDR began by gathering available air monitoring data from
- Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ),
- Corpus Christi Air Quality Project, and
- Corpus Christi area industries.
ATSDR is currently writing a public health assessment (PHA) report that includes these data and other data related to outdoor air exposures along Refinery Row.
Birth Defect Rates in Corpus Christi
In 2008, ATSDR received a request to look into high birth defect rates reported for Corpus Christi. After careful evaluation, ATSDR found that limits on current science prevented any finding that might connect Corpus Christi industrial sites, releases from those sites, and high birth defect rates.
The Exposure Investigation
In 2010, ATSDR worked with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) to find whether people living near Refinery Row were exposed to benzene and related chemicals. Area residents participated by providing blood, urine, and personal air samples. ATSDR and NCEH summarized the overall findings in an Exposure Investigation Report [PDF, 2.5 MB] .
ATSDR Senior Leadership Outreach
In November 2009, the Director of NCEH/ATSDR visited Corpus Christi. He met with local community leaders, residents, elected officials, government partners, and industry representatives. Some of the concerns the community expressed at this meeting were
- The status of ATSDR’s activities;
- The need for community involvement in all aspects of the planning effort;
- Corpus Christi’s high birth-defect rates; and
- The community’s desire to know the final results of the collaborative pilot study conducted by Texas A&M University (TAMU), the Coastal Bend Health Education Center (CBHEC), and the Citizens for Environmental Justice (CFEJ).