County Attorney Vince Ryan's Dioxin Case Is Back in State Court

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has made another bit of progress in the suit against a slew of companies that allegedly dumped a whole bunch of dioxin into the San Jacinto River back in the 1960s.

Federal District Judge Lee Rosenthal sent the case back to state court for a jury trial. The jury will be composed of Harris County residents, according to a release issued by Ryan's office on Thursday.

Ryan originally filed a lawsuit in 2010 in state district court seeking civil penalties for the dioxin contamination caused by paper manufacturing and paper mill waste disposal practices dating back to the 1960s. The suit claims that Champion Paper disposed of hundreds of thousands of gallons of contaminated waste, including dioxin, a chemical known to cause cancer and birth defects, in unlined pits just north of the I-10 East bridge and along the west bank of the San Jacinto River in east Harris County.

The lawsuit claims the companies failed to disclose the waste, so it was left there for 40 years, polluting the San Jacinto River and Galveston Bay. The site is currently the focus of an EPA Superfund cleanup, according to the release.

International Paper and Waste Management, one of the companies in the suit, tried to transfer the case to federal court in August, but Rosenthal wasn't having it. It's back to state court, where Ryan's office will pursue a $1 billion penalty case against Waste Management, International Paper and McGinnis Industrial Services, according to the release.

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