Former Plant Employee Accuses Company Of Illegal Dumping

An East Texas man says he's concerned the company where he used to work, is putting its employees and nearby residents in danger by trashing East Texas.   He says the Jacksonville company Opti-Blast, Inc., located on Jackson St. near Lookout Mountain is dumping dangerous chemicals on the ground.

"I've called the city. I've called the county. I've called the environmentalist. I've called everybody I can call and this company is still working over here," said former Opti-Blast employee Michael Tate.

Tate says he got welts on his hands and feet from chemicals he was exposed to at his former job. The company manufactures plastic bead blast media. Tate says he has been exposed to lead, formaldehyde and other dangerous chemicals and he's concerned for those who work there.

"There's people in this plant that has a family like I got," said Tate.  "They're exposed to the same chemicals I've been exposed to.  So, the way I see it is, they're not telling them or these people choose to go ahead and work to because they don't have another job to go to."

Another former Opti-Blast employee Tommy Magness says he quit in February after suspecting the chemicals were making him sick. "They have to do further testing and stuff.  My liver wasn't fighting off the stuff that's in it now because it's been exposed to so much formaldehyde," said Magness.

The president of Opti-Blast, Jason Floyd, told us this afternoon, his company does not even use formaldehyde or lead. And he told us, he does not believe Tate got the rash from working at opti-blast. "He had a rash in October after working there nine months," said Floyd.   "His narcotics anonymous sponsor, Mr. Chris Holman, who does not work at Opti-Blast had the same rash. They spent time out working at the ranch."

Floyd calls the allegations "comical" and says Tate and Magness are simply trying to get money out of the company... something he vows will not happen. Meantime, Tate says he and at least nine other workers who became sick plan on filing a lawsuit against the company.

The Environmental Protection Agency told us they cannot confirm or deny any allegations of improper disposal of hazardous waste at the site. The T.C.E.Q. says it found one case of unauthorized disposal of plastic bead blast media at the back of the plant. They told us the company plans to clean that up.

Oralia Ortega, Reporting.