Charges for Dumping Toxic Waste Filed vs Wright Containers
On Friday, February 2, a Houston container company was indicted for dumping toxic chemicals into the city’s storm drains. Wright Containers, along with owner Ronald Wright and general manager Gregory Hance, are each facing two counts of intentional water pollution and one count of improper disposal and storage of hazardous materials. The Office of Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said the indictments are the result of a joint investigation with the Houston Police Department’s Environmental Crimes Unit.
“Polluters who intentionally poison our environment with toxic and corrosive substances, who disregard the health of our people, and who cut corners on the handling of hazardous waste to make an extra buck are on notice – we will prosecute aggressively and resolutely when the evidence justifies it,” Ogg said.
Toxic Chemicals and Improper Disposal
The chemicals Wright Containers has been charged with dumping into the city’s storm-drain system include benzene, ethylbenzene, butyl benzene, dichloromethane, ethylbenzene, and toluene. These chemicals are highly corrosive and can cause severe burns and injury when they come into contact with skin or eyes.
State and Federal laws strictly regulate the handling and disposal of toxic chemicals. Wright Containers not only did not have the required permits for handling hazardous waste, but they have also been charged with dumping the chemical directly into city rainwater drains on the property. Those drains lead into city waterways and eventually into the ocean.
The defendants have also been charged with slicing up parts of the containers or “totes” and improperly disposing of these as well.
Chemical Burns Reported
The news channels have reported that several employees were exposed to chemicals during the illegal dumping process. Injured employees have complained that the chemicals irritated their eyes and burned through their gloves. The overall health impact these chemicals can have is dependent on the chemical’s concentration, as well as the time and degree of exposure. According to some of the injured employees, Wright Containers refused to pay for their medical bills, making their recovery even more difficult.
Temporary Restraining Orders Issued
On January 8, 2018, a Temporary Restraining Order was granted against Wright Containers, forbidding them from accepting or disposing any hazardous waste at their local site. The order came following an investigation by the Houston Police Department (HPD) after they had received complaints about Wright Containers accepting and improperly disposing of toxic chemicals. Their investigation concluded that the complaints were accurate and officers found damaged totes leaking chemicals onto the ground at the site. The totes were stacked around the property’s central storm drain, blocking it from public view.
Civil Action: Private Nuisance and Trespass
A toxic tort occurs when you engage in activity that negligently harms someone else’s property. This case gives rise to several toxic tort causes of action including Private Nuisance and Trespass. A private nuisance is an unlawful interference with another’s use and/or enjoyment of his land. Trespass in the context of environmental torts is entering the property of another without permission.
Wright Containers is located in southeast Houston on the 6600 block of Lindbergh Street, just a few blocks away from Seguin Elementary School. Toxic chemicals were not only released into waterways but ultimately the Sims Bayou and Galveston Bay. Moreover, nearby properties including home and schools may now require expensive environmental clean-up to prevent any contamination that migrated from waterways into the property.
Toxic Tort Attorneys in Houston
If you believe you or your property has been affected by this contamination, contact us today to speak to a toxic tort attorney. Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., has been helping injured victims and their families seek recovery for accidents just like this since 1979. Our attorneys understand the complexity of these claims and are committed to holding companies that operate in our community accountable for their actions. Call us at (713) 932-0777 to schedule a free consultation today.
Environmental Pollution Hotline
To report acts of pollution to the community, call HPD’s Environmental Investigations Unit at 713-525-2728.