Looking toward downtown Houston's cityscape from the East Side presents a much different picture than gazing down the lush linings of Memorial Drive to the West.
Juan Parras, long-time East End resident, takes us on a Toxic Tour of the oil and gas capital's industrial underbelly.
Juan Parras has lobbied for environmental justice since 1994. He is a former member of Greenpeace and TSU's Environmental Law and Justice Center and has worked on behalf of the Louisiana Labor Neighbor Project, Cesar Chavez High School and many others.
He currently serves as the founder of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), a non-profit dedicated to environmental issues surrounding the Houston Ship Channel.
Parras represents largely minority and immigrant populations for whom it can be difficult to mobilize.
As a result of the Safe Chemicals Act, the East Side was identified as a hot spot with disproportionately high exposure to chemicals, and its residents are identified as a vulnerable population.
Train yards dot the community, many storing full cars filled with chemical cargo.
A pile of impounded cars dwarfs the fence meant to contain their debris. Plastics, foam, flame retardants and heavy metals are just some of the by-products of this type of facility.
Debris makes its way into the water, and eventually into Galveston Bay.
U.S. Rep. Gene Green's district is one of the richest in the nation thanks to the Port of Houston. It also contains the highest rate of uninsured families, many of whom live dangerously close to industrial sites.
There are four shredding facilities in and around the East Side, many of which sit adjacent to waterways. Community baseball park-sized fences are put up in an attempt to keep debris from floating into residential communities or into the water.
This 36-acre lot was once contaminated, but was sold on the cheap to a developer on the condition that the soil be cleaned up.
Illnesses including cardiovascular disease and leukemia are at higher rates along the ship channel and closer to freeways than the national average.
Brand new gated condo communities sit adjacent to shotgun houses, raising property value and, simultaneously, property taxes. Many original residents will likely be forced to relocate as their long-time neighborhoods become out of their reach.
Many streets are boarded off to make way for trains carrying industrial supplies, and few low-income neighborhoods enjoy the quiet zones that new condominiums closer to downtown do.
The East Side is home to several of Houston's most historic neighborhoods, including old Harrisburg — the one-time state Capital.
As developers search for new areas to build, the East side of US-59 is quickly becoming a popular spot for new construction.
Chemical tanks flank Hartman park, located just on the other side of this narrow street.
Pictured is a handicapped crossing in one of the neighborhood's 134 railroad crossings.
Illegal dumping remains a problem in the East End, where there is little patrolling to discourage it.
A horse grazes on a lawn littered with trash and refuse.
With no zoning and few deed restrictions, it's not uncommon to spot a home holding on beneath the Valero tanks in the East side. This homeowner has long refused to sell.
A floating dumpster sits anchored in a waterway.
Childhood cancers are reportedly more common along the Houston Ship Channel than the national average. Parras says that children living along the Ship Channel have a 56 percent higher risk of leukemia.
Despite the obstacles, inhabitants of Houston's East End remain committed to improving their communities. Pictured here is a community garden where volunteers tend to and share the locally produced greens.
Smokestacks serve as a stark backdrop to this playground, which shares its limited space with the industry immediately adjacent.
A mural at Hartman Park depicts the flare that looms over the park from an adjacent plant.