Legal investigator Erin Brockovich is considering suing industrial plants in Ellis County, Texas. The area, on the southern part of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro region, contains numerous steel and power plants along with cement kilns. Brockovich and a team of lawyers plan to hold a meeting next month in Midlothian to discuss whether industrial pollution in Ellis County has harmed public health.
Last year, Virginia-based Environ International released a report finding that Ellis County produces the most nitrogen oxides of any industrial sources in the area. Brockovich said she focused on Ellis County at the behest of an old high school friend who lives in Midlothian and believes industrial plant emissions there have increased rates of birth defects and cancer. "We don’t want to create a community scare," Brockovich said. "But if I can come in and create a greater awareness of the issues, that’s a giant part of my job."
A spokesman for TXI, which owns several cement kilns in the area, said the facilities pose no danger to nearby residents. "A lot of people have looked at Ellis County, and at Midlothian in particular, and over the years the conclusion has remained the same," said Randy Jones. "There are no emissions levels that are causing health problems."
Earlier this month, officials from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality agreed to investigate the need for additional pollution controls on Ellis County cement kilns as part of a legal settlement with a coalition of environmental groups.
The Blue Skies Alliance, the Sierra Club, Downwinders at Risk and Public Citizen filed the suit last October in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, accusing EPA of failing to punish the state after it missed deadlines to improve air quality in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, which includes Ellis County. The suit charged outgoing EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt and EPA Region 6 Administrator Richard Greene with developing an air pollution reduction plan that would bring the metro area into compliance by 2010, as federally mandated.