Residents of a southeast Houston neighborhood said they are frustrated with the foul odor and piles of trash at a shuttered chemical plant off Griggs near Calhoun. The plant was raided nearly five years ago by Houston police, along with state and federal regulators.
"When I first smelled it, it was like, make you want to puke," said Jacqueline Warren, who lives behind the defunct CES Environmental plant. "I mean close up my nose and like, eww."
Other residents have described the smell coming from the closed plant as a mix between rotten eggs and onions. Residents told Local 2 the smell is at its worst on hot days and after heavy rains.
"It burns your nose and it's just awful," said Adrian Fletcher.
After a fatal explosion, the business was raided in August 2009. Federal court records show the company's former CEO was eventually convicted of environmental crimes relating to the operation of a similar facility in Port Arthur. As for clean-up, state officials said that is the company's responsibility. However, federal court records readCES Environmental declared bankruptcy in 2010.
"This is a perfect case study of the kind of problems that you have where you've got no money in place to actually facilitate clean-up operations," said resident Mark Schatz.
Mickey Edmondson, with Edmondson Environmental, is a court-appointed environmental consultant for the property. Edmondson told Local 2 Investigates that $2 million has been spent cleaning up the property, but the work is slow. Edmondson said all work at the property has to be approved by the bankruptcy court and only happens when money is generated from the sale of company assets. The entire facility is up for sale.
Edmondson said residual chemicals in tanks and vats create the foul odor residents have to endure, but he adds that state and federal regulators frequent monitoring of the area shows no danger to the surrounding neighborhood.
Still, officials with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said further action was taken just last month on the property.
"At the request of the city of Houston, the TCEQ Houston Region conducted onsite observations in March to identify appropriate action for site stabilization. Based on TCEQ’s observations, requests were made to the site trustee to clean up the releases and to mitigate future release potentials (e.g., cover open containers)," Terry Clawson, spokesperson for TCEQ, wrote in a statement to Local 2.
"When this activity did not occur, the state contractor was initiated on April 21, 2014, to conduct site stabilization activities. The activities included collection and management of dumped materials resulting from vandalism, covering open containers and diking areas of visible contamination to reduce the potential for contact with accumulated storm water. The state contractor completed these activities on April 25.
The Houston Region conducted additional onsite observations immediately after the completion of the stabilization work in April and after the recent rainfall (May 12-13, 2014) to ensure that the diking was performing as expected. The site remediation and waste management remain the responsibility of the property trustee."
The facility has also become an illegal dumping ground, along with thieves stealing copper wire and scrap from the buildings.
Houston police said they are working to crackdown on the illegal dumping on the property.