Cisneros is celebrating the findings of a recent report that concluded the asphalt shingle factory should vacate its predominantly working-class Latino neighborhood because it pollutes the air. The neighborhood group called Singleton United/Unidos created the report.
“It’s super dangerous. That’s something that just isn’t acceptable,” Cisneros said. “This is my neighborhood. There are older people. There is a day care center, there are schools, there are churches.”
GAF has been a backdrop in Cisnero’s life for as long as she can remember.
“You get used to hearing palettes. You get used to hearing intercoms. Maybe I didn’t notice it growing up, but the smell was really strong,” she said.
Communities of color have endured unwelcome neighbors for decades — industrial facilities they complain about can be smelly and even toxic.
Cisneros said West Dallas residents say vete yes – Must go. They are fed up with the stench seeping into their homes.
“My eyes are starting to water.”
“I can not breath.”
“My nose is itchy.”
“My stomach hurts from the smell.”
That’s what Cisneros said growing up.
A key finding in the 100-page report is “Plea for the urban payback of GAF”: The 75212 ZIP Code, where Cisneros lives and where GAF is based, has the worst air pollution in Dallas County.
The report also claimed that GAF releases large amounts of sulfur dioxide into the air. long exposure can lead to cough, shortness of breath and asthma.
Cisneros attributes them father’s death and the rapid decline in health due to air pollution in their neighborhoods.
GAF did not respond to specific questions about alleged pollution at its facility.
A GAF spokesman told KERA in an email, “We are very proud of our West Dallas operations and we are committed to our West Dallas employees and the work they do to meet the needs of our customers safely and effectively fulfill.”
Cisneros said there was no escaping the fumes. She worries about future generations.
“I think of my little girl and that we want to play outside. But… sometimes the smell is really strong and I know it’s not safe,” she said.
Local residents want the city to start a complicated legal process amortization to close the GAF facility.
Essentially, they would have to prove to the city that GAF posed a health threat and did not comply with zoning laws. Then the city council can request that the Board of Customization consider removing the store. The board consists of Dallas residents appointed by the council.
If the council does not make this request, a Dallas resident or property owner may request a write-down hearing. But they would have to pay a $1,000 fee.
GAF said it is unfortunate that a write-down is being considered and intends to challenge any misunderstandings and inaccuracies regarding its facility.
“Over the past 75 years, GAF has been a responsible part of the growth and development of West Dallas, and we support maximizing the community’s potential,” said a GAF spokesman.
Laura Beshara, a Dallas civil rights attorney with the firm Daniel & Beshara, PC has represented Black and Hispanic neighborhoods for decades.
Beshara said this environmental justice fight is different from others she’s worked on because of the support from institutions like Paul Quinn College and local environmental groups.
“This unit. This public pressure. It’s a very different environment than it was 20 years ago,” she said.
Beshara said a key factor in the fight to oust the GAF is the city’s support.
“It’s time for the city to step up and apply its policies to all neighborhoods, not just the white neighborhoods. To apply its zoning policies that protect neighborhoods from harmful industrial uses,” she said.
Beshara said this case “fundamentally violates the city’s own policy” and city officials must enforce the zoning.
City Council Member Omar Narvaez is representing West Dallas. He recently met with GAF officials and told them he would stand by the neighborhood group.
“My biggest goal is to get clean air in West Dallas,” he said.
Narvaez said GAF is ready to speak to the community.
“This is where West Dallas can lead. And we’re showing the rest of the city — and eventually other communities outside of our city, the metroplex, across the state of Texas and even across the country — how to work to remove a bad element from neighborhoods,” Narvaez said.
Back at the celebration, Janie Cisneros told the group of over 100 in attendance that she wouldn’t stop until GAF left the West Dallas neighborhood.
“This is our time to say we are no longer sacrificing Black and Brown community members. This is the time to say, “Hey City of Dallas,” “Hey State of Texas,” “Hey EPA, we’re watching.” We know what you know. We need you to act. You have to correct the wrong thing,” she said.
GAF and city officials meet privately with Singleton residents and neighborhood groups Wednesday night.
Singleton United/Unidos are poised to make a payback in August if GAF refuse to close.
KERA News is made possible by the generosity of our members. If you find this coverage valuable, consider it Make a tax-deductible gift today. Many Thanks.