And Now, A Few Words...
Harris County's trial against International Paper and Waste Management for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits' toxic contamination has just concluded. Unfortunately, the jurors had no idea what was at stake. The trial judge, interpreting Texas' rigid, highly exclusionary evidentiary laws, did not let in any evidence of environmental harm. As a result, it was no wonder the jurors were confused and found 10-2 that International Paper, whose predecessor company generated the toxic wastes, was not liable. (Waste Management, whose predecessor company disposed of the paper sludge with dioxin at the Pits, settled for $29.2 million).
The jury never heard this evidence:
• Dioxin is one of the world's most dangerous chemicals.
• Furans and other dangerous chemical also were released from the site.
• Galveston Bay's fishery has been under a state health advisory for 20 years because of dioxin contamination.
• Scientific dioxin fingerprinting shows that most of Galveston Bay's dioxin contamination comes from the Waste Pits.
• Years of sampling show high concentrations of dioxin throughout the River and Bay.
• Residents' and businesses' property values are depressed because their soil contains dioxin and furans from a nearby Superfund Site.
• The extraordinary number of nearby residents who are sick from illnesses known to be caused by dioxin.
The jury should have heard this credible, scientific evidence and weighed it against the defendant's arguments and counter-evidence. That would have been a real trial. But under our state's evidentiary laws, designed to cripple toxic torts and other cases based on scientific evidence, we have trials without evidence-- an oxymoron.
Fortunately, the EPA also has a role to play and will decide next year based on all the scientific evidence the proper remedy for cleaning up the Waste Pits. The consequences are huge for our area. We need your involvement to ensure the EPA's process is just. Please contact Jackie Young or Chris Schillaci at 713-782-8833.