Railroad Wins Important "Toxic Town" Suit

In 2007, our Todd Spivak did a feature on  the "Toxic Town" of Somerville, 90 miles southnorthwest of Houston and home to a Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway plant.

Residents there have much higher cancer rates than normal, a fact some traced to the arsenic, dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons used by the plant, which at one time was the nation's largest producer of railroad ties.

One of the residents, and one of the key parts of the Spivak's story, was Dennis Davis, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006.

He sued BNSF, and a 10-week trial wrapped up yesterday. The jury found for the railroad.

The jury took about two hours to reach its verdict, the Bryan-College Station Eagle reported.

BNSF attorneys said the verdict shows there's nothing unusual going on in Somerville.

"This should be good news to the city of Somerville," attorney Doug Poole of Galveston told the paper. "I really think this lawyer-driven situation has cost them tourism and other business ... because of the false rumors that have been spread. This is junk science. There's nothing there."

The plaintiffs' attorney Jared Woodfill of Houston, vowed to continue with other cases.

"This is a war. This is just one battle in a war to make these folks do the right thing and take care of the folks they have injured," he said. "I'm not giving up on Somerville or the men who gave their lives to this plant."


KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly