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Wednesday, January 7, 2004      
Port of Houston settles contamination suit for $100 million
Associated Press

HOUSTON - The Port of Houston said Wednesday it has reached a $100 million settlement in a lawsuit over massive contamination from a nearby pesticide manufacturing plant.

The settlement of the lawsuit was between the port and GB Biosciences, its parent company and 11 other firms associated with the east Houston plant, where the pesticides DDT and lindane were formerly manufactured. The lawsuit was filed in February 2001.

"The port authority has been committed to resolving this matter because we genuinely felt that it was the right thing to do for the protection and preservation of the environment and the quality of life," said Tom Kornegay, the Port of Houston Authority's executive director.

A Harris County flood control ditch and a section of Greens Bayou that runs near the plant were among contaminated areas. The defendants, as part of the settlement, will purchase more than 100 acres of the affected property from the port.

About 500,000 cubic yards of sediment from Greens Bayou will have to be removed as part of the remediation. Sediment also will be removed from the county ditch.

The GB Biosciences facility and its disposal areas are adjacent to the port authority's land, south of Interstate 10. Port officials learned of the threat in 1998 and began an investigation, determining the contamination was much more extensive than initially believed.

Signed on Dec. 19, the settlement calls for extensive remediation that alone will cost a projected $45 million. The cleanup is expected to begin this year and take five to seven years to complete.

The port authority also received $35 million in cash for attorneys fees, cost of property sold, oversight of the remediation process for the next 30 years and future protection for environmental issues as well as $20 million for protection against future claims or expenses.

Use of DDT was banned in 1970 by the federal government and production of the chemical ceased. Lindane production was halted in 1966.

Officials of Syngenta, which bought GB Biosciences in 1998, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Wednesday from The Associated Press.


© Copyright 2004 Miami Herald


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