In December 2011, Harris County sued International Paper and three other companies for polluting the San Jacinto River with the deadly carcinogenic and mutagenic chemical dioxin. In its suit the County sought civil penalties from the defendants for violation the Texas Water Code.
A jury trial was conducted through October and November of 2014 and on the morning of final closing arguments, two of the three defendants agreed to pay $29.2 million in penalties, one of the largest water pollution penalties paid in the history of Texas.
During the trial the state and county presented evidence that International Paper’s predecessor, hired a company that deposited hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of paper mill sludge laced with dioxin on the shore of the San Jacinto River. Over the next forty years dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals in existence, leaked into the San Jacinto River contaminating fish, water and sediments requiring the EPA to create The San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site.
The County alleges in its brief the trial court’s exclusion of key evidence from the trial blocked the County and State from presenting key portions of its case against International Paper to the jury.