HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Nine million tons of combusted petrochemicals in the air and in the water. For Harris County Commissioners Court, the ongoing threat was at the top of the agenda.
Commissioner Adrian Garcia represents the citizens of Precinct 2 who inhabit the communities most heavily bombarded by residue from the ITC fire. Garcia is calling for wide-scale blood testing to capture a medical baseline.
"My concern is we don't know if we have the next generation of cancer patients in our midst," said Garcia.
Tuesday, Garcia and every member of the court voted to sue Houston-based International Terminals Company for all costs associated with the disaster.
The litigation filed by the Harris County Attorney's Office cites alleged violation of multiple state environmental laws including the Texas Clean Air Act, the Texas Clean Water Code and the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act.
In the meantime, Judge Lina Hidalgo took aim at the County's initial inability to deliver its own independent scientifically sound analysis of the chemical threat, in real-time.
"Somehow, even though we have the largest petrochemical complex in the world, nobody had thought to make sure we had a County system to monitor these kind of chemicals," said Hidalgo who joined with Commissioners in supporting the future purchase of an Enhanced Mobile Monitoring system to analyze the composition of chemical vapors.
Harris County Pollution Control Director Bob Allen assessed the cost at $500,000.
With toxic benzene levels still registering on some monitors at levels some consider alarming, residents and activists speaking to Commissioners demanded swift action, absolute transparency and a degree of accountability that will prevent environmental crisis.
"The ITC fire chemical residues that are in our children's schools, that have not, have not been tested, in any of our kids schools and yet our kids are back in school," said Terri Garcia, a Deer Park parent.
"So lets call it what it is, This is a long pattern of environmental racism. It needs to change," said Jamie Lawson of the Houston Climate Movement.
"Just because you are poor doesn't mean you have to be subjected to all these hazardous things," said community activist Deidre Scott.
ITC reports it has received more than 2,300 claims from residents who say they've suffered lost wages and other damages as a result of the fire.