Authorities conduct raid in SE Houston

August 4, 2009 9:00:42 PM PDT
Local and federal investigators conducted a raid at a chemical plant in southeast Houston Tuesday. It happened at CES Environmental Services facility on Griggs and Wayland. The company's offices in Port Arthur were also raided Tuesday by local and federal law enforcement officers.

The raids come after three deaths in less than a year. The most recent happened at the Houston plant just last month. A worker was cleaning out a tanker truck when there was a flash fire. He later died from his injuries.

The Houston plant was also rocked by two explosions in December of last year.

More than 60 officers and agents carried out simultaneous search warrants on the two CES chemical plants. The searches come on the heels of allegations against CES made by residents and businesses.

"We've had some safety issues in the past and we actually had to slow down our operations because of a safety issue here today," said Stephen Dicker with the Houston Police Department.

Dicker wouldn't elaborate on the safety issues spotted there.

"We do know, but I can't say," he said.

The search started at 7am Tuesday. Besides looking for paperwork and taking chemical samples, authorities aren't giving many details about the search.

"Very alarming," said nearby resident Cheryl Hill.

Hill's home backs up to the facility. She says ever since last month's deadly explosion, her family has been on edge.

"It shook the house and broke up stuff inside our house, off the walls," she said. "It's very scary. It's like you're sitting here like a time bomb."

She and her neighbors are waiting to hear what will happen to the facility. Either way, they say it's unsafe and they want it shut down.

"A few people are going to lose their jobs," said Perry West, who lives nearby. "But all the guys that were killed came in with the expectancy of going home to their families."

There's still no official word on what the search was about. The facility is shut down and will remain closed for at least three days as the search goes on.

CES issued a statement saying they were given no explanation for the raid and all employees were sent home by federal authorities.

"We are cooperating fully with all agencies involved in today's raid. We comply with all local, state, and federal regulations and are confident that investigators will find this to be true," Greg Bowman, CES vice president of finance said, in a statement.

CES Environmental Services started operations at its Houston plant in 2002. On its website, CES says it's a non-hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility. Several services are listed, like transportation, waste packaging, disposal services, and industrial and tank cleaning.

We also haven't been told why officers searched the CES facility in Port Arthur. Two workers have been killed there. In December, a 36-year-old Arlington man died of asphyxiation, caused by inhaling hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas. Then this past April, a 48-year-old Louisiana man died while working at the Port Arthur facility. Exposure to the same chemical was listed as a "contributing factor."

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