UpdateMinor fire starts at Texas chem waste plant after raid

04 August 2009 23:20  [Source: ICIS news]

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HOUSTON (ICIS news)--A minor fire broke out on Tuesday in a container holding chemicals at the CES Environmental Services plant in Houston - hours after law enforcement raided the site, according to the Houston Fire Department.

Firefighters were letting the fire burn itself out, since they could not identify the chemicals, and the material was not running off, said Tommy Dowdy, assistant district chief for the Houston Fire Department.

Regardless, the fire department ordered residents within 0.25 miles (0.40km) of the fire to stay in their houses, Dowdy said.

The fire was reported at about 15:04 hours Houston time (20:04 GMT), he said.

US chemical waste management company CES' two locations in Texas were raided on Tuesday morning by law enforcement officials, according to the US Attorney's office.

The reason for the raids by both local and federal officers at the Houston and Port Arthur plants was not disclosed by the US Attorney's office, because it does not comment on ongoing cases.

"It's an ongoing investigation and the searches are being done today," said Davilyn Walston, spokeswoman for the US Attorney's office in the Eastern District of Texas.

CES provides industrial, environmental and transportation services, according to its website.

Although there were no details on the raids, news reports cited two deaths in the past year at the Port Arthur location.

A man died at the site in December 2008, allegedly from asphyxiation due to inhaling hydrogen sulfide. Another death was reported in April as a possible result of exposure to hydrogen sulfide, according to KFDM-TV in Beaumont.

At the Houston plant, a worker was killed in a flash fire in July, KHOU-TV in Houston reported.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Parks and Wildlife Department and Coast Guard were all taking part in the raids, Port Arthur police chief Mark Blanton told KFDM-TV.

(Additional reporting by Ryan Hickman)

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By: Al Greenwood
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