A former company president faces prison and hefty fines in connection with two workers’ deaths due to hydrogen sulfide exposure.
Matthew Bowman of Houston, a former executive with Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services (PACES), has pleaded guilty to violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act and making a false statement.
Exposure to hydrogen sulfide caused the deaths of two employees, both truck drivers: Joey Sutter on Dec. 18, 2008, and Charles Sittig on April 14, 2009.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Bowman had admitted not properly protecting PACES employees from hydrogen sulfide exposure. He’s also pleaded guilty to directing employees to falsify transportation documents to conceal waste water was coming from PACES after a disposal facility banned all shipments from the company after it received water containing hydrogen sulfide. The shipments didn’t contain the required safety placards.
PACES was in the business of producing and selling caustic materials to paper mills. That production involved hydrogen sulfide, a gas which is an acute toxic substance. OSHA requires employers to implement engineering controls to prevent employees from being exposed to harmful levels of hydrogen sulfide. PACES ceased operation in 2010 and filed for bankruptcy.
Bowman faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The corporation faces a fine of up to $500,000 per count. The judge hasn’t set a sentencing date.
“Bowman’s actions showed a preference for profit above the safety of his employees,” said Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce laws enacted for the protection of human health and the environment.”
“The plea agreement sends a strong signal to all who would illegally transport hazardous materials,” said Max Smith, regional Special Agent-in-Charge with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General. “We will continue our efforts to ensure safety in the transport of these materials and vigorously pursue those who violate the law.”