Axios Houston

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๐Ÿ“ก Wednesday is now live.

๐ŸŒค๏ธ Today's weather: Mostly cloudy with a high of 85.

๐Ÿš Sounds like: "My House" by Kacey Musgraves.

Today's newsletter is 913 words โ€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: A fight for sewer justice

Sade Hogue in front of her home, which Northeast Action Collective and West Street Recovery have stepped in to repair. Photo: Shafaq Patel/Axios

Local organizations are demanding the city create a $20 million private sewer pipe repair fund to help fix sewage overflows into homes and yards.

Why it matters: The proposed fund aims to alleviate the burdens on low-income Black and brown communities, where research has shown sewage overflows disproportionately persist, leading to health and lifestyle issues.

Catch up quick: Sewage pollution has long been an invisible problem across flood-prone Houston.

  • As part of a negotiated settlement in 2021, the City of Houston agreed to invest $2 billion in local sanitary sewer upgrades over 15 years after a Bayou City Waterkeeper investigation highlighted the issue.
  • Three years have passed, and the city has been repairing public sewage lines. As of 2023, the city had completed 35 of the 81 "early action" projects already planned under the consent decree, per Bayou City Waterkeeper.

Yes, but: Bayou City Waterkeeper says that historic damage has degraded private lines connecting homes to the public system and that those problems won't be fixed by just public line repairs.

State of play: Northeast Action Collective, West Street Recovery and Bayou City Waterkeeper spoke at City Council's weekly public comment session yesterday, pushing for policy change.

  • They say the allocation of funds would allow families to fix their sewer lines and related damage, as well as pay for the health impacts of sewage overflows, particularly in northeast Houston.

"This is a structural problem with a policy solution," Bayou City Waterkeeper's Kourtney Revels said at a press conference yesterday.

By the numbers: From April 1, 2021, to June 30, 2023, the City of Houston reported 2,809 overflows from its own system, but 4,434 overflows from private sewer pipes.

Case in point: Sade Hogue's home in northeast Houston has been in her family for three generations. She said at the press conference that despite paying more than $25,000 for sewer repairs, the problems persist and have worsened after Hurricane Harvey and Winter Storm Uri.

  • For years, her family has been dealing with "exploding toilets." There's raw sewage accumulating under her home, where she lives with her husband and two children, and in the summers, there are "poopoo vapors coming out into my yard," she said.

What's next: Council members thanked the speakers yesterday, but no specific legislation or next steps from the city were discussed.

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2. Fort Bend teen joins U.S. cricket team

Pooja Shah debuted internationally in 2023. Photo: Alex Davidson-ICC/ICC via Getty Images

A Fort Bend ISD high schooler won a coveted spot on the women's national cricket team for the upcoming World Cup qualifier tournament.

The big picture: Dulles High School student Pooja Shah, 18, is a rising star in the professional cricket world, having made her international debut in 2023 with the inaugural women's under-19 team in a tournament in South Africa.

Now, she's one of 15 women on the senior team representing the U.S. in the 2024 International Cricket Council Women's T20 World Cup Global Qualifier, which kicks off Friday in Abu Dhabi.

  • Shah earned the spot during a four-day training and selection camp in Florida in March.
  • Her ability to bowl and bat made her a versatile asset to this year's campaign, in which she'll play as a middle-order batter.

The intrigue: Shah started playing competitively in 2020 and was the only girl in the Sugar Land Youth Cricket Club when she began, according to the Fort Bend Independent.

  • She wants to pursue a career in health care as an orthopedic surgeon or a specialist in sports medicine.

State of play: The senior women's team has played in the qualifier twice in its 15-year history but has never made it to the World Cup.

What's next: The team's first competitive tournament match is against Uganda on April 27.

3. Bayou Buzz

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

๐ŸฆŸ Harris County health officials are expecting a rise in mosquito-borne illnesses as temperatures heat up. (Houston Public Media)

๐Ÿ›๏ธ Attorneys for Travis Scott and Live Nation told a judge that Houston police and fire officials are to blame for the 2021 Astroworld tragedy, which left 10 concert-goers dead. (Houston Landing)

โšพ Longtime Astros prospect Forrest Whitley will soon make his Major League Baseball debut after the team called him up from the minors. (Chron)

4. โœ‚๏ธ One burning Texas question

To pick or not to pick? Photo: Jay R. Jordan/Axios

Country music sweetheart Kacey Musgraves unwittingly started a debate last week over the legality of โ€ฆ picking the state flower.

Why it matters: Bluebonnets are sacred in Texas, and some people are told from childhood that it's illegal to pick them. (It isn't, as long as you aren't on private property.)

Driving the news: Musgraves, who grew up in the East Texas city of Golden, shared a photo on Instagram last week of herself holding a bluebonnet bunch.

The intrigue: Her comments section filled up with traumatized Texans who grew up believing picking bluebonnets is illegal in the state.

  • "Wonder what the world would be like if people just used Google to realize it's not illegal to pick bluebonnets ๐Ÿคฃ," one commenter said.
  • "But for some reason I thought it was my whole life too ๐Ÿคจ," Musgraves replied.

Friction point: The post also sparked a debate in the comments over the ethics of picking bluebonnets.

  • One person shared that the flowers have a long germination process.
  • "Just because it's legal doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do," they wrote.

Reality check: Picking, cutting or destroying any plant life at state and national parks is illegal.

๐Ÿ“ฌ Time for you to weigh in. Reply to this email and let us know your take on this very important topic.

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Thanks to Emma Hurt for editing and Khalid Adad and Yasmeen Altaji for copy editing this newsletter.

๐Ÿบ Shafaq bought fun new glazes for her pottery.

๐ŸŒฝ Jay is contemplating seeing Korn in The Woodlands this year.