News Releases


Union Pacific Seeks Residents’ Permission for Extensive Soil Testing in Fifth Ward

Testing is part of Union Pacific’s Ongoing Commitment to the Fifth Ward and Results will be Made Public

Omaha, Neb., September 1, 2023

Union Pacific today announced the next step in its efforts to secure accurate information about contamination in the Fifth Ward community. The railroad will be requesting permission from property owners to sample soil in their yards. It is partnering with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in collaboration with the City of Houston, Harris County and Bayou City Initiative (BCI), to design a soil testing plan for properties located near the former Houston Wood Preserving Works (HWPW) site. The railroad has already completed extensive remediation work at the former site.

Beginning the week of Sept. 11, Union Pacific representatives will begin going to certain properties that the EPA approved for soil testing. This effort is part of the railroad’s commitment to providing transparency and timely action to safeguard the community for generations to come. Testing is the most accepted method to determine the degree of contamination at a location and its potential source.

Testing will be paid for by Union Pacific and completed under the guidance and approval of the EPA. Soil sampling is a simple and low-intrusive process that does not cause property damage; however, it requires a homeowner to grant Union Pacific and the EPA permission to access their property.

Union Pacific will make the complete test results available to the public once they have been received from an EPA approved laboratory and validated by scientists. The results will also help inform a risk assessment, enabling the EPA to make decisions about any next steps to protect the community.

Union Pacific, along with its collaborating partners at the City, County and BCI, asked the EPA to provide oversight for additional soil testing. The Houston Health Department independently conducted some additional sampling in September 2022. Although the Texas Department of State Health Services reviewed the city’s data and found no cancer or health concerns linked to the presence of chemicals, including dioxins, in the soil samples collected near the former HWPW site, Union Pacific remains committed to bringing action and resolution to the community.

“Union Pacific cares about the community; they deserve complete information and action. That’s why Union Pacific is committed to transparent, open communication throughout every next step until the job is complete,” said Toni Harrison, Union Pacific spokesperson. “This means making sure sampling and testing, and every necessary next step enables the community to mend in a safe and sustainable environment for generations to come.”

Union Pacific is seeking permission from more than 300 residents and landowners located near the former HWPW site. Additionally, the railroad will test several parks, schools, and other properties.

Since inheriting the site in a 1997 merger, Union Pacific has made measurable progress with cleanup and remediation at the site including installing over 120 wells at the site and in neighboring Fifth Ward, creating an asphalt/concrete barrier to control exposure from underground creosote and monitoring groundwater and removing creosote from the subsurface. More information about the site, its history and remediation work to protect the community is available here.

About Union Pacific

Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) delivers the goods families and businesses use every day with safe, reliable and efficient service. Operating in 23 western states, the company connects its customers and communities to the global economy. Trains are the most environmentally responsible way to move freight, helping Union Pacific protect future generations. More information about Union Pacific is available at

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Media Contact

Kristen South