The fond memories often give way to an intense sadness whenever Patrick Sanders thinks about the friends and neighbors he grew up with here on East 31st Street.

So many of them have died of cancer that he said he has lost count. The disease also took the lives of his father and his sister, at the age of 44. Sanders himself is facing a recurrence of prostate cancer.

His old block in this majority-Black community backs up to a synthetic rubber plant that has for decades spewed a chemical into the air that federal regulators say is likely to cause cancer.

The Environmental Protection Agency first warned of the dangers of the plant seven years ago. Yet, it has been allowed to continue to operate even though it sits about 450 feet from the Fifth Ward Elementary School.