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Harris County's Appeal of Waste Pits Decision

Harris County is moving again to make International Paper, Inc responsible for the damage that has been done to the river and the community.  We''re thrilled that they're moving forward to see the community gets the environmental justice that they need!

Article from Baytown Sun

By Christopher James christopher.james@baytownsun.com I Posted: Friday, February 20, 2015 12:00 am

The Harris County Attorney's Office is seeking a new trial against International Paper concerning the San Jacinto Waste Pits.

"We filed a notice of appeal Thursday and at this point in time we haven't developed all the points of appeal," said Rock Owens, environment and infrastructure attorney for Harris County. "But it should have to do with the exclusion of evidence by the judge."

Before the jury's verdict in favor of International Paper, Harris County was able to get McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corporation and Waste Management of Texas to agree to a $29.2 million settlement.

San Jacinto River Coalition director Jacquelyn Young was pleased to hear the news that Harris County was pursuing an appeal on the 10-2 verdict acquitting the paper company.

"I'm really excited to hear that and hopeful that they would be able to file an appeal," Young said. "I don't feel that the trial was fair when International Paper recei ved the not guilty verdict. I think that if less evidence had been withheld and more would have been allowed to be presented to the jury, then

I think that they would have been found guilty."

The waste pits, located just north of the Interstate 10 Bridge near Highlands, sat for more than 40 years and contained pollutants such as lead, mercury, PCBs and dioxin.

The waste was produced by Champion Paper, which merged with International Paper in 2000.

In 2008 the EPA identified the site for long-term cleanup under the federal Superfund program.

The EPA then required an armored cap in 2011 to keep the waste contained but due to the complexity of the waste pits the EPA is reevaluating information for a final cleanup.

In related news, a civil lawsuit filed by Channelview residents Jim Harpster and wife, Jennifer, against MIMC, International Paper and Waste Management of Texas was moved to March after a request for withdrawal of the attorney-in-charge was accepted by the judge.

On Feb. 5, Judge Caroline Baker in the 295th judicial district granted the motion for the defendant, McGinnes Industrial Maintenance, to substitute counsel.

Albert Axe, Bruce Wilkin and Tracey Penn of the law firm Winstead withdrew as counsel for MIMC in this case.

Paula Hinton, Renee Wilkerson and William Collins of the law firm Winston & Shawn will be the new consel for MIMC and Hinton will be designated as attorney in charge.

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