A company that cleans chemicals out of tanker trucks and one of its managers have paid $1.2 million in fines over hazardous waste violations at a tank cleaning facility in Freeport, Texas, in an agreement reached this week.
Enterprise Transportation Company, a trucking and terminal division of Enterprise Products Partners, faced four felony counts of filing false documents as well as violating Texas hazardous waste laws.
The truck cleaner failed to send four different chemicals to a flare where they would have been burned off in May 2011, according to court documents.
"They were required to flare certain chemicals before cleaning out the tankers," said prosecutor Patricia Robertson, with the Travis County District Attorney's Office.
The company and shop manager John Schultz were charged last week. Charging documents say Schultz "recklessly tolerated" the practice.
The compounds released when they should have been combusted were Ethanolamine, Ethylene amine, Fyrol PCF and petroleum distillates.
Operation since sold
Truck cleaning operations are part of the end of the chemical production cycle and are often a sideline of much larger transportation firms.
Enterprise Products spokesman Rick Rainey said the cleaning operation has since been sold.
"Enterprise appreciates the efforts of the Travis County District Attorney's Office to work cooperatively in resolving this matter," Rainey said.
Robertson said she was glad Enterprise "stepped up to the plate to take responsibility" for its violations.
Schultz potentially faced two years in prison, but prosecutors agreed to a special misdemeanor of tampering with a pollution control device. Schultz plead no contest and received deferred adjudication, a form of probation.
His attorney, Randy Leavitt, said Schultz plead no contest to see the matter resolved. "The fact that he was not convicted of any crime and remains in his job indicates that the errors he made were not flagrant or intentional," Leavitt said.
Deadly incident in 2011
Travis County has statewide venue in Texas. This case, from Freeport in Brazoria County, came to its attention after an incident on Feb. 7, 2011, in which John Christopher Shirley, a 27-year-old father of two, died while attempting to clean a tanker truck at the plant.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found 43 serious violations at the facility. Initial fines were $192,000.
A civil case brought by Katie Shirley, Christopher Shirley's widow, against Liquid Transport Corp., whose trucks were being cleaned, is ongoing.
When workplace safety inspectors encounter problems that fall outside their jurisdiction, they often refer the information to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The Travis County District Attorney's Office operate under a cooperative agreement with TCEQ to prosecute some environmental crimes. The Environmental Protection Agency also took part in the investigation.
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