Owner sentenced in deaths of drivers poisoned by toxic chemicals

By Clarissa Hawes, Land Line staff writer | 11/12/2013

A trucking company owner has been sentenced to one year in federal prison after admitting he illegally hauled hazardous materials, which resulted to the deaths of two of his truck drivers.

Matthew L. Bowman, 41, former president of Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services LLC (PACES), and CES Environmental Services of Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty to violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act and making a false statement. 

According to court documents, Bowman did not have the proper permits to treat hazardous waste or recycle waste oil and commercial wastewater and ordered his employees to “falsify transportation documents to conceal that the wastewater was coming from PACES after a disposal facility put a moratorium on all shipments from PACES after it received loads containing hydrogen sulfide."

Two of Bowman’s drivers, Joey Sutter, and Charles Sittig, died within four months of each other in Dec. 18, 2008, and April 14, 2009. According to the Department of Justice, both died due to hydrogen sulfide exposure. Court documents allege Bowman illegally hauled hazardous loads using false documents, did not have the required placards, and did not provide his drivers with the proper safety controls to prevent them from “exposure above harmful limits.”

From November 2008 to November 2010, Bowman operated both PACES and CES. According to the Office of Inspector General’s investigation, his business primarily focused on “producing and selling caustic materials to paper mills.”

“Hydrogen sulfide is an acute toxic substance that is the leading cause of sudden death in the workplace,” according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Besides the one-year prison sentence, Bowman has been ordered to pay a fine of $5,000. Both of his businesses, PACES and CES, have filed for bankruptcy.

“The Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to vigorously investigate and prosecute those who violate the laws enacted to ensure the safety of workers handling hazardous materials and to prevent the kind of tragedies that occurred in this case,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Dreher in a statement.

Several local, state and federal agencies were involved in the investigation.

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