Visualizing Pollution: Corpus Christi Data Dashboard
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The Corpus Christi Data Dashboard is a comprehensive map viewer developed by FracTracker Alliance Data and GIS Intern Paulina Hruskoci and Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association that visualizes air and water quality data in the Corpus Christi, Texas, area using Earthworks flare imagery videos, air and water pollution monitor data, and facility locations.
Corpus Christi Data Dashboard
This interactive map looks at information regarding air quality, water quality, and facility location in the Corpus Christi bay area.
View the map “Details” tab below in the top right corner to learn more and access the data, or click on the map to explore the dynamic version of this data. Data sources are also listed at the end of this article.
In order to turn layers on and off in the map, use the Layers dropdown menu. This tool is only available in Full Screen view.
Items will activate in this map dependent on the level of zoom in or out.
Pollution in Corpus Christi has been recognized as an environmental justice issue, with plants located disproportionately near Black and low-income communities. Although local groups have filed several complaints with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, their concerns have been largely ignored.
In October 2022, Black residents in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Corpus Christi filed a civil rights lawsuit to prevent new desalination plants from being built in the city, sacrificing the community’s needs for large amounts of additional water. This is the third civil rights lawsuit filed for the residents since 2007. Previous complaints include preventing a sewage treatment plant from being built and relocating residents for the construction of a new highway bridge.
Corpus Christi’s Hillcrest Neighborhood
Once-thriving Black communities, Hillcrest and the adjoining Washington-Coles neighborhood are two of the city’s oldest and largest minority neighborhoods.
A predominantly Hispanic and Black neighborhood, Hillcrest is hemmed in by miles of an industrial stretch known as Refinery Row to the west, and oil tanks lining the inner harbor to the north.
CITGO’s Corpus Christi East Refinery was among 13 facilities that exceeded the EPA’s “action level” for average annual benzene emissions in 2020.
Many Hillcrest residents have moved out under a voluntary resettlement plan with the Port of Corpus Christi.
Image by Ted Auch, FracTracker Alliance, 2022
Local activist groups, including Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association, and Earthworks, have begun to hold corporations accountable through data.
Flare imagery videos were acquired by Earthworks researchers in December 2021. These videos were uploaded to Youtube and are linked in the map viewer.
The current air and water quality data provides a baseline for comparison of future pollution issues. This data can serve as a tool of accountability if future environmental justice and climate crisis events occur.
The Texas Stream Team has published water quality data for the entire state, so particular attention was paid to Corpus Christ in this map viewer. Stream Team Data was trimmed to five counties in Corpus Christi: Kleberg, Nueces, San Patricio, Aransas, and Refugio.
Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association has placed several air monitors at locations throughout the bay to collect data on relevant air quality variables, including particulate matter. Both NO2 and O3 air pollution within Corpus Christi fall below nationwide legal acceptable limits based on current air monitor data, 50 ppb and 70 ppb respectively.
Particulate Matter 2.5 can be harmful as small particles enter your bloodstream and lungs, causing adverse health impacts. According to the EPA, these impacts can include irregularities for the heart, decreased lung function, and even premature death for those with underlying heart or lung conditions. All 10 air monitoring sites with PM 2.5 data fall above the annual recommended limit from the World Health Organization of 5. This is especially concerning considering outlier events such as oil spills or flares from current industry, as well as proposed future development in the area.
The predominantly Black Hillcrest neighborhood in Corpus Christi has brought multiple environmental justice complaints. The Hillcrest neighborhood is surrounded by two primary environmental justice concerns: Refinery Row to the west and Interstate 37 to the south. Unfortunately, there is also a lack of water and air data collection in the Hillcrest neighborhood. Monitoring should increase in this area to hold corporations and local development accountable for the environmental justice complaints.
Additionally, the Gregory area in Corpus Christi, a predominantly Hispanic and rural area, has particularly high numbers of particulate matter 2.5, with averages as high as 11.19 and 9.91 throughout the area. Gregory is nestled between multiple Lotte Exxon facilities, as well as the Exxon-SABIC Cracker.
As articulated in a recent blog post by FracTracker, there are also four new desalination plants that have been proposed throughout the region. These will only decrease the local water supply, as well as potentially increase discharge of toxic waste. The Corpus Christi region also submitted a pitch for a regional Hydrogen Hub proposal. Marketed as “clean energy,” the introduction of hydrogen comes with a range of safety issues, including its high flammability and potential for leakage into the atmosphere. The associated environmental justice concerns with both desalination plants and a potential hydrogen hub should be elevated and prioritized.
Image by Ted Auch, FracTracker Alliance, 2022
The Take Away
- Pollution in Corpus Christi has been recognized as an environmental justice issue, with plants located disproportionately near Black and low-income communities.
- Visualizing current air and water quality data provides a baseline for comparison of future pollution issues and can serve as a tool of accountability if future environmental justice and climate crisis events occur.
References & Where to Learn More
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