The Harris County Attorney's office has filed suit against Waste Management and International Paper for allowing dioxin to pollute the San Jacinto River for over 45 years. Assistant County Attorney Rock Owens says seeking penalties will be a lot easier than damages for the toxic pollution.
"We're talking about the penalties, the same thing that you and I would have to pay, for example if you and I threw some garbage out of our car window driving down the road, we would be ordered by the court to pick that garbage up, or the cop might drag us back there and make us do that. But then, there'd be a day when you and I went to court and we would have to pay the fine. And that's what we're talking abut here. These companies have to atone for what they've done, and it's time to pay."
Owens says the penalties result in fines the two companies will have to pay, which could mean millions of dollars representing 45 years of polluting the San Jacinto River.
"The county wants to use that money to create public awareness about what's going on in the river, so that the community can be better informed. We want to use that money to help repair the damage to the environment away from the site. But the actual sire cleanup, that'll be handled by the EPA."
Health officials warn the dioxin may cause death, immune system disorders, liver damage and reproductive damage. A consumption advisory has been issued for crab and fish from the river.