John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Sep. 10, 2012, 1:18pm

GALVESTON - A local state district judge has set the date for what is billed as the "first" test trial in litigation arising from the BP emissions event two years ago.

Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox scheduled the trial date for Sept. 9, 2013.  Six complainants selected from a pool of 200 will have the opportunity to testify about the alleged toxic release at BP's Texas City facility.

The Galveston County District Clerk's Office reported in June that more than 50,000 people have filed suit in response to exposure “to significant amounts of toxic and noxious chemicals as well as benzene” for 40 days after a hydrogen compressor in the refinery’s ultracracker unit went offline on April 6, 2010.

Each emission suit asserts BP released at least 540,000 pounds of chemical and compounds, including 17,000 pounds of benzene, into the environment, stating the emissions were kept a secret from Texas City officials until they were completed.

The suits, which surpassed the number of cases filed in response to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association’s supposed mishandling of Hurricane Ike claims in the county, allege the release inflicted serious health problems, including, but not limited to respiratory disorders, labored breathing and dizziness.

The jury's ruling in the test trial will set the precedent for how the other cases would proceed.

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