story by Jay R. Jordan, Staff Writer
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KINGWOOD -- Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan announced on Aug. 18 that a three-year long lawsuit against a major polluter has ended with the firm closing down and agreeing to pay over $3 million in penalties and attorneys’ fees.
U. S. Oil Recovery, L.P., its Chief Operating Officer Klaus Genssler and several related entities were found to have operated an illegal hazardous waste processing and oil recycling facility in Pasadena on North Richey Road. In addition to closing the company and paying the penalties, Genssler has agreed to a permanent injunction barring him from serving as an officer or director, or being employed by any business that generates, transports, processes, stores or disposes of any hazardous waste or used oil anywhere in the State of Texas.
The company accepted oil and other hazardous chemicals for recycling but did not properly store, contain or process the wastes. As a result, tens of thousands of gallons of pollutants leaked and flowed into the Harris County bayou system. The Office of the Harris County Attorney worked with Harris County Pollution Control Services and the State of Texas to investigate and file suit concerning numerous complaints received about the company.
Harris County and the State won three temporary restraining orders and two temporary injunctions over the past two years against Genssler and his companies. In the spring of 2010, Judge Kyle Carter granted a temporary injunction requiring the companies to stop accepting wastewater and used oil, and to dispose of the thousands of gallons of wastewater and solid waste on site.
“This has been a hard fight,” said County Attorney Vince Ryan, “The stakes were high but in the end the people of Harris County won. Our office is committed to taking action against companies who profit by operating outside the law and poison the air and waters of Harris County.”
Rock Owens, Managing Attorney of the Environment Group in the Office of the County Attorney, said the lawsuit was a second Battle of San Jacinto due to the proximity of the company to the monument commemorating the burning of a bridge across Little Vince Bayou during the 1836 battle for Texas independence.
The settlement will be published in the Texas Register for a period of public comment before being submitted to the judge for final approval. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has organized a group of potentially responsible companies who brought waste to the site. This group is in the process of cleaning up the site.