Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services LLC and its former president were indicted on Wednesday on conspiracy to illegally transport hazardous materials, resulting in the deaths of two truck drivers.
The federal indictment was handed down by a federal grand jury in Beaumont, TX, on Wednesday, July 18, according to a Department of Justice press release.
The 13-count indictment describes a scheme in which hazardous materials were transported illegally with false documents and without placards, and where workers were not properly protected from exposure to hazardous gases.
The exposure resulted in the deaths of truck drivers Joey Sutter and Charles B. Sittig at the company’s facility on Dec. 18, 2008, and April 14, 2009, respectively. Both deaths are attributed to exposure to hydrogen sulfide.
The company, along with its president Matthew L. Bowman, were charged with a conspiracy to violate the Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act and two counts of failure to implement appropriate controls to protect employees from exposure to hydrogen sulfide.
The indictment also charges the defendants with transportation of hazardous materials without placards and with false documents, violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and making false statements.
Bowman was president and owner of Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services, located in Port Arthur, TX, and CES Environmental Services located in Houston.
Port Arthur Chemical was in operation from about November 2008 to November 2010. The company produced and sold caustic materials to paper mills. The production of caustic materials involved hydrogen sulfide, classified as a poisonous gas and deemed an acute toxic substance that is the leading cause of sudden death in the workplace. Employers are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to implement controls to prevent employees from having exposure above harmful limits.
According to the indictment, Bowman was responsible for, among other duties, approving and directing Port Arthur Chemical production operations, the disposal of hydrogen sulfide wastewater, employee safety precautions, directing the transportation of the company’s wastewater, and determining what safety equipment could be purchased or maintained.
Both companies owned by Bowman have filed for bankruptcy.
If found guilty, Bowman faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each count of the indictment, and the company faces $500,000 maximum fine.