Cite variety of health, safety concerns as a result of clean up

Christopher Maher, Jim Wells County Correspondent

Residents of San Diego who live near the site of a train derailment that occurred in the city last year have filed a lawsuit against the company responsible for cleaning up the derailment, citing a variety of health and safety concerns.

The lawsuit was filed in the 229th District Court Dec. 28 and named the companies G.H.W. Services Inc. and Cargill Incorporated as co-defendants.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Ramiro Ramirez, Zulema Vela, Maria T. Martinez, Maria M. Nunez, Jose M. Gallegos, Dominga R. Ramirez, Armando Chapa and Mari Salinas on behalf of Jose Armando Chapa, and Lori Casas on behalf of Lorena Renee Rocha.

According to the lawsuit, on Sept. 2, 2007 a train owned by Kansas City Southern derailed, spilling a large quantity of soybean meal and crushed corn from eight rail cars.

The corn and soybean material, which was owned by the company identified as Cargill Incorporated, contained dangerous substances including Endrin, Hexacholorocylohexane, acetone, 2-Butanone, Styrene, 4, 4-DDE and 4,4-DDT, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit further alleged that on Sept. 6 the company identified as G.H.W. Services began using a grain vacuum to pump the material into 18-wheeler trucks.

"During this process, large amounts of contaminants became airborne, creating large plumes of dust covering homes, vegetation and vehicles," the lawsuit states. "The airborne contaminants also spread a strong, unpleasant odor across the area."

On Sept. 8, according to the lawsuit, officials with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigated the clean-up and cited G.H.W. for "failing to employ proper emission controls while operating the grain vacuum," and for not having a required permit to operate the vacuum.

The plaintiffs list a number of claims against the two companies, including negligence, nuisance, and strict liability, and seek damages including personal injury, property damage, present and future medical expenses, cost of monitoring, cost of testing and attorneys fees.

The companies have not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.