Poisoned Trucker Leaves CEO Facing Prison Time

     BEAUMONT, Texas (CN) – A federal judge accepted the guilty plea from the former CEO of a defunct chemical company whose actions led to an employee’s death.
     Matthew Bowman had been indicted in July 2012 for exposing his employees to dangerous amounts of hydrogen sulfide while serving as CEO, president and majority owner of Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services (PACES), in Port Arthur, Texas.
     Prosecutors said Bowman’s actions caused the deaths of truck drivers Joey Sutter and Charles Sittig.
     Sutter died by asphyxia and poisoning by hydrogen sulfide inhalation, the grand jury charged. Similar inhalation killed Sittig by acute myocardial infarcartion.
     The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has named hydrogen sulfide as “the leading cause of sudden death in the workplace,” according to the indictment.
     “PACES did not have permits to treat hazardous waste, recycle waste oil and treat commercial wastewater during the relevant periods of this indictment,” the indictment also stated.
     Bowman’s other company, CES Environmental Services, did have permits in Texas “to transport hazardous wastes, recycle used oil, and treat commercial wastewater,” the grand jury found.
     Last month Bowman submitted a guilty plea to two of the 13 counts. One charged him with violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act and causing Sutter’s death. The other count charged him of making a false statement. That count stemmed from a hazardous waste manifest Bowman drafted that misidentified wastewater as coming from CES when it actually came from PACES.
     U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone accepted the guilty plea Monday.
     Bowman’s plant was generating wastewater and oil containing hydrogen sulfide in the course of producing materials for paper mills in Louisiana, according to the 24-page indictment. It allegedly disposed of the wastewater at an injection well in Winnie, Texas.
     The Department of Justice said Bowman could serve up to five years in federal prison and pay a maximum fine of $250,000. The charges against PACES are still pending.
     “In this day and age, it seems inconceivable that workers would be exposed to the level of danger that was routine at PACES,” U.S. Attorney John Bales for the Eastern District of Texas said in a statement. “Mr. Bowman’s actions as the leader of the company were more than just cavalier, they were criminal and he is being held to account.”

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