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2 Houston-based attorneys with Deer Park ties hold legal guidance info session

DEER PARK, Texas – Two Houston-based attorneys who grew up in Deer Park held a town hall info session at a location in Deer Park Saturday. Their goal was to offer free legal guidance to those who were impacted by the massive ITC chemical storage facility fire.

After the EPA said in a news conference Saturday that oil had infiltrated the Houston Ship Channel, among other bodies of water, residents have grown concerned over what to do next.

For Houston-based attorney Bill Ogden, with Farrar & Ball LLP, this issue is personal. Ogden grew up in Deer Park. His mother is an elementary teacher in the city. His brother is a first responder who helped to put the ITC fire out. He spoke with his brother when it happened.

"This is as bad as it can get, and that was when two tanks were on fire ... then six tanks, then eight tanks, then it was, 'We don't think we can stop it,'" Ogden said.

Ogden then thought he had to do something, so he recruited another Deer Park Independent School District grad, his high school friend, another Houston-based attorney, Chance McMillan, who works as a partner at McMillan Law Firm.

"The one thing ITC needs to be is transparent, and that's why we have so many people reaching out, because they don't know what's going on," McMillan said.

Hoping to clear any misinformation, they set up a town hall-styled information session. The response was overwhelming. More than 250 people attended. The crowd was out the door.

"Just to get an answer from someone one on one, face to face," Manuel Zayas, a Deer Park resident, said.

"Anybody in the city, anybody in the surrounding city who wants to come here, we'll give you our answers," Ogden said.

They offered legal advice to the hundreds of people. This happens to come after the very first lawsuit was filed again ITC earlier this week, as well as a lawsuit by the Texas attorney general.

"If you are a business owner that lost revenue, that is a claim that you can make against a multitude of people ... still trying to figure out what happened, who is responsible ... that's a claim that you can make. If you're a person who started feeling health side effects ... there is a clinic that can help you," Ogden said.

These are all potential cases that attorneys said residents can seek guidance for. 

McMillan also warned residents to know what they are signing. McMillan said a company claims form circulating online has fine print.

"(In) signing it, you waive your interest and your rights to bring a suit against them," McMillan said.

"I think it's very helpful for the residents of Deer Park. They need to come out and voice their opinions and questions," Zayas said.

For Jessica Banuelos, whose daughter has been feeling ill, the situation is very difficult.

"I'm taking all the necessary precautions just living in here because I don't have any other place that I can really go to," Banuelos said.

Residents said they want accountability and information.

"There could be more said (from) the city," Zayas said.