Less than a month ago, Houston City Council members responded to an avalanche of complaints about explosions and sickening smells coming from a CES Environmental Services Inc. waste treatment plant in southeast Houston and decided to sue the company under nuisance laws in an attempt to remove the facility.
Since then, more than 30 residents of the Griggs Terrace subdivision, which is adjacent to the plant, have filed a class-action lawsuit in Harris County District Court against CES Environmental alleging a number of illegal activities.
"It's almost like an Erin Brockovich case," the residents' attorney, Benjamin Hall, tells Hair Balls. "If what these people are telling us is true, then it would be one of the most flagrant cases of hazardous waste manipulation that I've seen."
According to the lawsuit, the residents allege that CES is "engaging in the illegal trafficking of hazardous substances through their neighborhood," and that "CES is apparently illegally changing labels on hazardous material barrels without remediating the contents of such barrels."
Hall -- a former city attorney and possible mayoral candidate -- says the allegation is that drivers are bringing hazardous waste in to the facility with non-hazardous labels and then shipping it out.
"We've got seven drivers saying the same thing," says Hall, "that they kept telling people, 'Look, you're going to get us locked up on the streets and highways if we get stopped if we don't have a manifest or have a false manifest.'"
In addition, the lawsuit claims that CES is believed to be illegally disposing hazardous waste on and under the residents' property.
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"CES' conduct is offensive and illegal," the lawsuit states, and "has caused physical sickness."
The City of Houston has issued at least 50 violation notices, complaints and citations to the company, according to the lawsuit, yet the alleged illegal acts have continued uninterrupted.
A CES spokesman has said that the company spent millions of dollars addressing residents' complaints. According to Hall, CES is being represented by attorney Robert Howard of San Diego. Howard has not responded to a request for comment.
The residents are seeking to end CES' alleged activities and also request continued medical monitoring to determine the extent of the damage done to them, according to the lawsuit.
-- Chris Vogel