Texas

Houston business accused of leaking chemicals illegally into storm drains, hazmat investigates

A business in east Houston is under investigation by local authorities accused of leaking unknown chemicals or oils down drains.

“We are executing an environmental search warrant on the property,” said Sgt. Patrick Morrissey of the HPD Environmental Investigations Unit. “We will collect evidence to find out what that dismissal was and whether it was potentially criminal in nature.”

Scores of Houston police cars and fire engines parked outside the Boyles Street store on Wednesday. Much of the area along the block was closed to investigation for several hours. Workers from other businesses nearby say they’ve never noticed anything unusual there.

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“[We’re] totally surprised to get out of here with all the traffic and the HPD,” said Emmitt Welch, a nearby worker.

Authorities, wearing hazmat gear, went in and out of the packing facility, which is just about half a mile from Buffalo Bayou, which empties into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

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“It’s a chemical manufacturing facility,” said Houston Fire Department captain Jason Wilson of the Hazardous Materials Response Team. “Further details, I’m not really sure what they are. What I’ve also been told is that there has been some sort of illegal dumping of these chemicals into the stormwater system. What then the streams, lakes, rivers, bays and the like. The food we eat. It also puts pressure on our rainwater system.

Just last week, Texas health officials issued a recall of oysters harvested in certain parts of Galveston Bay after some people became nauseous while eating them.

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“Everything drains into the bay,” Morrissey said. “We’re doing this to prevent it from getting there. This is how we can keep our waters clean. [That way, we can] that our fish remain edible and our oysters remain edible.”

There is no known connection between the Boyles Street store and the oyster recall. Authorities are currently working to determine which chemicals and oils are leaking from the company and whether they have any downstream impact on the environment.

“Hopefully it will be a wake-up call for the other companies around here that are in the same space,” Welch said.

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