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Hazmat Exec Gets Prison after 2 Deaths

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

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The former president of two Texas environmental-services firms will serve one year in prison for trying to hide his company's role in the death of one of two drivers poisoned by hydrogen sulfide.

Matthew Lawrence Bowman, 41, of Houston, had pleaded guilty May 9 in the case—a rare criminal prosecution under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.


Two drivers for the company died in four months from hydrogen sulfide exposure, the leading cause of sudden death in the workplace.

Bowman was president and owner of the now-defunct Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services LLC (PACES) and Houston-based CES Environmental Services (CES). In his plea, he admitted failing to protect truck driver Joey Sutter from hydrogen sulfide, then directing a cover-up after Sutter died Dec. 18, 2008.

A second PACES truck driver, Charles Sittig, died under similar circumstances April 14, 2009.

Sudden Death

Both drivers were fatally exposed to hydrogen sulfide, or "sewer gas," a naturally produced poisonous gas generated by the breakdown of organic materials and sewage.

Exposure to hydrogen sulfide is the leading cause of sudden death in the workplace; exposures are subject to multiple federally mandated controls.

PACES, which operated from November 2008 to November 2010, was in the business of producing and selling caustic materials to paper mills; that production process produced hydrogen sulfide.

Sutter and Sittig were drivers for PACES who transported hydrogen sulfide wastewater—an operation Bowman personally directed. In both cases, the wastewater was transported illegally with false documents, without the required placards, and without protection for the drivers, prosecutors said.


Matthew Bowman owned CES Environmental Services (CES) and Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services (PACES). Both companies are out of business.

After Sutter's death, Bowman admitted "directing employees to falsify transportation documents to conceal that the wastewater was coming from PACES after a disposal facility put a moratorium on all shipments from PACES after it received loads containing hydrogen sulfide," the Justice Department said.

Indictment and Plea Bargain

Bowman was charged in a 13-count indictment in both deaths, but the final plea bargain and sentence relate only to the Sutter case.

The sentencing completes the government's prosecution for both deaths, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said Monday (Nov. 18).

Bowman has also been fined $5,000 in the case. He had faced up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine each on multiple counts of the indictment.

'Pitilessly and Needlessly'

"We extend our deepest condolences and well wishes to the friends and family of Mr. Sutter, who died pitilessly and needlessly because of the criminally negligent actions of Matthew Bowman,” John M. Bales, U.S. Attorney for the Easter District of Texas, said in a statement.

After Bowman's plea in May, Bales said:  “In this day and age, it seems inconceivable that workers would be exposed to the level of danger that was routine at PACES.

“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."


Tagged categories: Enforcement; Fatalities; Hazardous waste; Laws and litigation; OSHA; Transportation

Comment from WAN MOHAMAD NOR WAN ABDUL RAHMAN, (11/19/2013, 5:36 AM)

Love of worldly things is the root of all evil. Man will do anything to protect themselself.

Comment from Joseph Smith, (11/19/2013, 11:22 AM)

How sad and down right criminal it is that this Exec directly and knowingly caused the deaths of these two drivers and all he gets is a $5000 fine and a year in prison. What does that say for the price of a human life.

Comment from Victoria Terronez, (11/20/2013, 2:55 AM)

Happens all the time. Just like the Water tower deaths of several young men in the past few years. A lot of Cover Ups going on. Workers deserve the Right to be safe & go Home to their Loved Ones!

Comment from Wes Carter, (11/20/2013, 5:42 PM)

I'll bet the families are so relieved justice was (NOT) done...1 year for 2 Murders...In Texas...never thought I would see that!

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