Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

A Child of Refinery Row Looks Back

Photo by Teresa Vieira/KUT News

Several pipelines run underneath the Dona Park neighborhood in Corpus Christi.

What’s it like growing up surrounded by refineries in Corpus Christi?

A commenter on one of our stories about Refinery Row, Iris Gonzales Hinojosa, writes about her childhood among the refinery stacks:

“I grew up in Dona park, specifically on Vernon Drive, and many of my childhood memories include Mom and Dad, closing our home’s windows to run the air conditions because breathing the air was so unbearable.

I also remember our cars being covered with refinery by-products dust and grime.  Another image etched in my mind is being woken up at various hours in the night/morning by the sound of the refineries burning off product. When I looked outside from our den, the flares so significant that they would light up the night’s sky a bright orange.

Even as an adult now when I return home to visit my parents, I notice that my eyes burn and tear up. If I stay a more than a weekend, my skin is impacted in acne breakouts and I develop phelgm in my lungs.

It pains me that my parents and families that I’ve grown up with continue to live in the Dona Park area versus moving to improve their quality of life and to cease exposing themselves to the on-going pollution, but I understand their reasons. It is a matter of priniciples and ethics.”

Hinojosa isn’t alone in wanting her parents to leave Refinery Row. Other families in the neighborhood that spoke with StateImpact Texas expressed a desire to leave the neighborhood, but couldn’t sell their homes because they had lost their value, or had paid off their homes but couldn’t afford a new mortgage or rent elsewhere. But change could be on the horizon.

This Friday, the city of Corpus Christi and the Environmental Protection Agency are hosting an environmental summit that will form working groups to deal with some of the issues affecting residents of Refinery Row and the rest of the city. A buffer zone between the refineries and residential communities is on the agenda, but how that will play out remains to be seen.


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