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Harris County Attorney's Office
Friday, October 26, 2012
HARRIS COUNTY ATTORNEY RYAN SEEKS QUICK TRIAL DATE ON
SAN JACINTO WASTE PITS SUIT AMID INCREASED PUBLIC SAFETY CONCERNS
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan announced today that he is seeking a trial date as soon as possible for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits lawsuit because of serious concerns about people eating dioxin-contaminated seafood.
The quick trial date request is being made because of the public’s compelling interest in an expedited resolution of the serious public health and safety issues associated with the pollution of the San Jacinto River and seafood being consumed by Harris County residents.
“It has become increasingly evident that the public is not fully informed regarding the fishing and consumption ban in effect for the San Jacinto River,” Ryan said. “People are eating the restricted species of fish and also selling it to the wholesale market where it could land on anyone’s dinner table.”
The County’s lawsuit was filed nearly a year ago in December 2011 against International Paper Company, Waste Management, Inc., Waste Management of Texas, Inc. and McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corporation to recover civil penalties under state law. The County’s lawsuit alleges that those companies’ actions, inactions and silence in connection with the Waste Pits led to decades of dioxin exposure to the public and the food supply of Harris County. The Court has scheduled the case for trial on April 15, 2013, but there may be other trials scheduled for the same time. Harris County is requesting a preferential setting on that date to ensure the expedited resolution of this serious, time-critical matter.
Game Wardens for the Law Enforcement Division of the Texas Parks & Wildlife have recently confirmed that the public is still fishing near the Waste Pits and that some seafood is being caught and harvested from the impacted areas of the San Jacinto River for sale to the public. The San Jacinto River is one of the Parks & Wildlife Department’s enforcement priorities due to public safety issues. While game wardens have increased their patrols on the River to try to stop subsistence fishermen and others from catching and consuming fish impacted by the dioxin, they do not have the manpower and funds to adequately police the area to ensure that the public is protected. In addition, language and cultural barriers make it difficult to educate and warn the public not to consume fish from the San Jacinto Waste Pits area and more educational efforts are needed.
Harris County intends to use part of any proceeds it recovers from this penalty action to provide further education to the public about the dangers of consuming the restricted fish and to assist the Law Enforcement Division of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department in enforcing the fish consumption bans. A preferential trial setting will address the need to resolve this case promptly and provide the public with more ready access to any penalty funds awarded. This will allow Harris County to better support public education and law enforcement that are needed to protect the men, women and children of Harris County.
A hearing on the request has been scheduled for November 12th at 10 a.m. in the 295th District Court.
Harris County is represented by Vince Ryan, Harris County Attorney, Terry O’Rourke, and Rock Owens of the Office of the Harris County Attorney, and the Houston law firm of Connelly ·Baker · Wotring LLP.
A copy of the Motion can be viewed at
A copy of the affidavit of Captain Frederick G. Ruiz, Game Warden for the Law Enforcement
Division of Texas Parks & Wildlife can be viewed at
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