John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Sep. 26, 2013, 3:09pm

GALVESTON - The legal team representing local residents who claim to have been exposed to toxic chemicals at BP's Texas City refinery brought in a physician to testify Wednesday afternoon.

Jurors listened to Dr. Barry Levy discuss the aspects of general causation in relation to the alleged emission at the refinery, then owned by BP, which began on April 6, 2010, and continued for six weeks.

Levy's testimony is part of a "test" trial into what more than 50,000 people assert was the release of about 540,000 pounds of chemicals and compounds — including at least 17,000 pounds of benzene from the facility now owned Marathon Petroleum Co.

Galveston County 56th District Court Judge Lonnie Cox is hearing arguments from The Buzbee Law Firm and BP's lead counsel over the first four allegations from the first four plaintiffs, the outcome set on becoming the precedent for how the other cases would proceed.

Dr. Levy, an epidemiologist, explained that "general causation" applies when agents such as air pollution cause disease on a certain segment of the population.

He went over three categories of chemicals relevant in the alleged incident, namely, volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

Citing the U.S. government, Dr. Levy stated that "all three sets of chemicals can cause respiratory tract irritation, eye irritation and related symptoms," adding he implemented a three-step process to determine his findings.

Dr. Levy said he does not know exactly what the four plaintiffs suffered following the emission, but surmised they likely experienced breathing problems, coughing, fatigue and nausea.

The rest of Dr. Levy's time on the stand was spent going over slides of previous studies, during which he attested there is a connection between the aforementioned categories and asthma.

A BP attorney then cross-examined Dr. Levy on his deposition from earlier this year and questioned him about toward regarding his research.

When asked about refinery emission regulation standards, Dr. Levy admitted to not having expertise, but rather was present to tell "the whole truth."

The trial is currently in its third week and could last several more.

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