County Attorney Vince Ryan hosts symposium to address environmental disasters

County Attorney Vince Ryan welcomes the participants at the "Environmental Disasters in Harris County" symposium on Oct. 10.
County Attorney Vince Ryan welcomes the participants at the “Environmental Disasters in Harris County” symposium on Oct. 10.

At a conference hosted by County Attorney Vince Ryan last week, experts described the environmental challenges facing Harris County when storms like Hurricane Harvey strike the Texas coast, the home of hundreds of chemical companies and oil refineries. The symposium titled “Environmental Disasters in Harris County,” held on Oct. 10 featured scientists, lawyers, and other experts who discussed what government and industry were doing and could do to prevent the loss to life and property from flooding and severe weather events.

“Our office is willing to take the lead in protecting our community with respect to the environment,” said County Attorney Ryan. “This symposium was a great effort to keep all parties focused, engaged, and up-to-date with the latest information and efforts by our office and other agencies.”

Attorney Charles Irvine, lead counsel in a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers, for flood damage to hundreds of homes located upstream of the Barker and Addicks Reservoirs in west Harris County, said the Corps knew that torrential rain storms regularly occurred in Harris County and that the areas upstream from the dams would flood. He described the devastating impact of flooding to homeowners.

Jim Blackburn, Co-Director of the SSPEED Center, Rice University, showed the catastrophic impact of a Hurricane Ike-type storm moving up the Ship Channel. He said it would be one of the worst environmental disasters ever to occur in the United States, jeopardizing over 200 chemical plants.