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More than 60 fishermen and others in the seafood business gathered Wednesday morning in downtown Houston to say they're worried about delays in a government lawsuit against four companies involved in alleged pollution of the San Jacinto River.
The predominantly Vietnamese gathering at the Harris County Civil Courthouse highlighted a case filed in December 2011 by Harris County and the State of Texas against International Paper Co., McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp., Waste Management Inc. and Waste Management of Texas Inc.
"We found out about the dioxin in the San Jacinto River just within the past year," said Henry Nguyen, a Houston businessman who helped organize the group's trip to the courthouse.
"A lot of people in different businesses - grocery stores, seafood restaurants, retailers want to know about dioxin," he said. "They're very worried because their families, their children eat fish. That's one of the main foods for daily life."
After speaking briefly to reporters outside the courthouse at 201 Caroline St., the group filed inside to attend a hearing in the 295th State District Court before Judge Caroline Baker.
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The Butte Environmental Council has launched an educational campaign in Oroville to help alert citizens to the dioxin contamination that has plagued the southern part of town for decades. Billboards demanding action and a series of public forums have been funded by grants from Ventura-based outdoor-clothing company Patagonia Inc. and the Clif Bar Family Foundation.
Mark Stemen, president of BEC’s board of directors, said Clif Bar and Patagonia both have campaigns aimed at helping low-income communities deal with the toxic problems they may face.
“They were very inspired by the issues and the work we’ve been doing in south Oroville,” Stemen said.
Dioxins have been linked to human reproductive and developmental problems, damaged immune systems and cancer. In 2007, a report by the California Department of Public Health on cancer data found 23 cases of pancreatic cancer in Oroville in 2004 and 2005, which was twice the expected number. No official cause was ever cited, however.
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