From a top-floor perch in their tiny, handcrafted, award-winning live-work compound at 5910 Grace Ln. (featured a while back in Dwell magazine), architect Mark Schatz and designer Anne Eamon had front-row seats to the ongoing smelly, toxic, and deadly shitshow that marked the over-the-back-fence tenure of CES Environmental Services, in its facility at 4904 Griggs Rd., just a mile and a half south of the UH campus. Among the joys they were able to plug their noses and record was this tableau from July 2009: “In the first photograph [Schatz] took of the scene unfolding below him, shot like all the rest with the eye of an architect, perfectly framing the site, the tank farm is to the left, and a worker races from the right to the warehouse, which has a smoking hole blown through the roof. In a subsequent photo, oxygen tanks are wheeled in. Then the oxygen tanks fall over. Then a forklift shows up, and a crew starts setting the oxygen tanks upright. All this time, while they go through this Three Stooges routine, their co-worker is lying inside the warehouse covered in burns. You can see the back of a metal cylindrical tanker truck in the photos. [Schatz and Eamon] learn later that the fatally burned worker had opened the hatch on the tanker and switched on his flashlight to peer in. A spark from the flashlight set off a flash fire.”
Other highlights from Raj Mankad’s quaintly detailed account of m+a architects’ epic neighborhood toxic tussle include a friendly visit from CES Environmental’s community-minded owner, Matthew Bowman, wherein he accused the couple of “orchestrating a vast conspiracy” against him and his waste-processing firm, “involving the Black Panthers, the Mayor’s Office, City Council, TCEQ, the EPA, the Texas Attorney General, METRO, and various civic club organizations, in addition to other City departments like Health and Human Services, Water, and Wastewater.” This was after CES singlehandedly forced the city of Houston into a violation of state and federal clean water standards but before Bowman pled guilty to federal charges of operating a conspiracy to transport hazardous materials illegally (resulting in 2 employee deaths), and received a 1-year prison term and a $5,000 fine.
- Saving Grace: A Small Experiment by Two Architecture Students Led to a Big Struggle for Their Neighborhood [OffCite]
- Previously on Swamplot: Houston’s Unhappy Hipsters; More Excitement at that Chemical Waste Disposal Plant in the Back Yard; Waste Processing: Smells and Explosions in MacGregor Terrace
Photos: m+a architecture studio (studio building); CES Environmental Services (trucks)
So the man died? Kind of jars with the tabloid tone of this article.
Too bad Gov Goodhair doesn’t have neighbors like that plant.
and we wonder why on-the-job deaths in Texas jumped by 23% all the while declining nationally. people like Bowman are the evil amongst us. give them an inch and they’ll run a mile while expecting someone else to pay the price.
@ joel: That figure probably has something to do with that Texas has been creating so many more jobs than other places in the nation and that those jobs tend to be disproportionately comprised of blue-collar occupations with are especially stagnant or in decline elsewhere. You should sort of expect to see an increase in on-the-job injuries and deaths, and — although not a good thing in and of themselves and something that should be mitigated against whenever possible — they are an indicator of economic opportunity that does not exist elsewhere. It’s a good problem for a state to have.
Ah, the Niche is back. Yeah, it’s economic opportunity that kills people and not the fact that our State Government is an absolute joke. Donate some cash and those pesky regulations just fall by the wayside. Of course, you are correct on some level, the two are intricately related. Dirty Biz love states that don’t care what they are doing to the air, water, land, or workers.
I know a LOT about this story. The City, State and Federal Government all exerted SIGNIFICANT pressure on CES and, ultimately, caused its demise (and Matthew Bowman’s imprisonment). If CES is/was in your crosshairs, you should be happy with the way this was handled by the government.
Shorter @TheNiche: The more dead workers, the better for Texas.
No, RobertBoyd, you’re confusing something that I am presenting as merely an indicator for an ends unto itself. Imagine that a billion people in the world become middle class and start flying all over the world to take vacations that they could not previously have afforded. It is likely that more people will die from SCUBA-related accidents. These accidents will be concentrated in places that are nice to dive, like coral reefs, in countries that have nice dive sites. It is an activity that is inherently more dangerous than the null hypothesis, lets say sitting around at home watching television. People willfully take the risk anyway and it is an indicator of something else that most people would agree is perfectly fine and desirable, just like job opportunities around.
And saying all of that doesn’t excuse any employer or any other third party from gross negligence or manslaughter. If there’s civil or criminal fault in a particular matter, then by all means it should be investigated or prosecuted. I would likewise expect the quantity of such cases to increase as another indicator of economic activity.