A plastic container recycling company is accused of intentionally dumping toxic waste into Houston waterways. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office announced on Friday that a grand jury has indicted the company, Wright Containers, along with its owner and manager on felony charges.
Prosecutors say Wright Containers was receiving large containers of chemical waste from clients throughout the U.S. and dumping those chemicals down the storm drain on its property located on the 6300 block of Lindbergh Street. Prosecutors say the chemicals have been making their way down Simms Bayou to Galveston Bay both in 2017 and as recently as January.
“We received a whistleblower tip from a ex-employee, basically stated that the company was taking in industrial hazardous waste and dumping it down a storm drain,” said Detective Patrick Morrissey with the Houston Police Department’s Environmental Investigations Unit.
An aerial photo from Houston police shows dozens of stacks of plastic containers holding up to 330 gallons of liquid each. The environmental investigations unit obtained a warrant in late December 2017 to find out what was inside those containers.
“Some of the things were acids, industrial waste, hazardous waste,” said Det. Morrissey.
“These are substances that are carcinogeous, suspected to cause cancer, can burn the skin off your bones,” said Alexander Forrest, Chief of the Environmental Crimes Division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
On Thursday, company owner Ron Wright and manager Greg Hance were each indicted for felonies of improperly storing hazardous waste and purposely pouring hazardous chemicals into the Houston storm drain system, according to the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors said on Friday that Wright and Hance were free on bail. FOX 26 News stopped by Wright Containers, but a staff member who answered to door declined a request to speak with the owner, manager or any other employees of the company. Wright also didn’t answer when FOX 26 visited his home in Friendswood on Friday.
Back at Wright Containers, investigators snapped photos showing the chemicals appearing to have eaten away at the drain where they were poured. They interviewed employees of the facility.
“The stuff would burn their eyes, it would make them sick,” said Chief Forrest.
“Gave you a headache, it would make you light headed,” said Det. Morrissey.
On Jan. 5, the District Attorney’s Office filed a temporarily restraining order against Wright Containers, forcing the company to stop sending or receiving the giant plastic containers at the facility.
“This is one of the reasons they weren’t regulated: They made it seem like they were in the business of selling plastic containers," said Forrest. "What they were doing is they were getting used plastic containers with bad stuff in it, throwing the bad stuff down the storm drain, and then refurbishing it and selling it for a profit.”
Prosecutors say Wright Containers opened for business early in 2017. It is unclear how much toxic waste was dumped into Houston waterways over the last year.
The temporary restraining order, which stopped the pollution, is still in effect as those in charge of Wright Containers now await trial.